WASHINGTON (CBS DC) — The word “lunatic” will be stricken from federal law under legislation that passed the House by a vote of 398-1 on Wednesday.
The congressional action is the most recent effort to eliminate language from the U.S. code that has become outdated or demeaning. Two years ago, Congress removed references in federal law to the term “mental retardation.”
The only “no” vote was cast by Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, who said in a statement that, “not only should we not eliminate the word “lunatic” from federal law when the most pressing issue of the day is saving our country from bankruptcy, we should use the word to describe the people who want to continue with business as usual in Washington.”
The legislation cites one instance in banking regulation that refers to the authority of a bank to act as “committee of estates of lunatics” on guardianship issues. The word is derived from the Latin word from moon and ancient beliefs that people could become “moonstruck” by lunar movements.
The Senate passed the measure in May, and it was sponsored by Sens. Kent Conrad, D-N.D., and Mike Crapo, R-Idaho. “Federal law should reflect the 21st century understanding of mental illness and disease, and that the continued use of this pejorative term has no place in the U.S. code,” Conrad told CBS News.
Various mental health groups supported the legislation, including the coalition organization Mental Health Liaison Group, which said that use of the word “lunatic” and other outdated and offensive terms, ”only serve to perpetuate this stigmatization” against people with mental health conditions.