Gender-neutral language amendment certified for the ballot in South Dakota

In 2024, voters in South Dakota will decide on an amendment to make references to officeholders in the state constitution gender-neutral. The amendment would do so by changing male pronouns to specific titles.

The South Dakota House of Representatives voted 58-12 to approve the amendment on Feb. 28, 2023. The South Dakota State Senate voted unanimously 35-0 to approve the measure on Feb. 6.

If approved by voters, all references to offices within the constitution, such as the governor or lieutenant governor, would be amended to use either gender-neutral language or a specific title. For example, the phrase “his official duties” in the constitution would be amended to say “the justice’s official duties”.

There have been at least 10 measures to amend state constitutions to be gender-neutral. Of the ten proposed amendments, six were approved. The most recent state to approve an amendment to use gender-neutral language in the state constitution was Utah, where voters passed Amendment A by 58%-42% of the vote on November 3, 2020. The United States Constitution currently contains gender-specific language by referring to certain offices by using the pronouns he or his, for example.

Currently, this amendment is the only measure on the South Dakota ballot for Nov. 5, 2024.

Between 1985 and 2022, 53 constitutional amendments referred to the ballot by the state legislature were on the ballot for South Dakota voters. Twenty-six (26) were approved and 27 were defeated.

Additional reading: