Presidential Pronouns: Is Hillary Barred From Taking Office as a Female?

It is the rage on the blogs: the argument that the Constitution only refers to “he” and “his” and thus does not provide for a female president — absent an amendment changing the masculine pronouns. Douglas Wallace, 80, has taken this parlor trivia to a new level by filing to block Hillary Clinton from the Nevada ballot.

Wallace, who holds a J.D., insists that the effort to elect a female president is little more than an “end run around the Constitution.” In this lawsuit, Wallace states “The use of female gendered pronouns ‘she’ or ‘her’ are not present in the document, making it conclusive that the framers never intended that a woman would be president of the United States.”

Advocates of this argument often point to the fact that when women were given the vote in 1920 under the Nineteenth Amendment, some objected that it might allow a women to be president but were assured that such a thing could not occur. Such arguments, however, are meritless. Women were expressly incorporated into the political system by amendment and judicial interpretation. The masculine pronouns is merely a historical relic of the time. Indeed, courts currently will use the pronoun as referencing both genders.

Article II uses the pronoun “he” or “his” 19 times, but not one of them will be interpreted to restrict an eligibility to a male. The only requirements are that the person be natural born, at least 35 years old and a U.S. resident for at least 14 years. This has caused a controversy not for Clinton but McCain, click here and here.

For the full story, click here.

24 thoughts on “Presidential Pronouns: Is Hillary Barred From Taking Office as a Female?”

  1. Jay:

    I understand your point, but what I was saying is that we have to make a value judgment in some cases, and to do so is not ridiculous. Given our current state of knowledge, reasonable people can differ on the point of the attachment of legal rights, but that is not to say that ideology drives it. The proposition that God unquestionably imbues a soul at the moment of conception in the face of all the biology we know about (spontaneous abortion, twins, chimera, etc.) seems more ideologically driven than simply saying we must make a choice based on our conception of rights and biology. Viability seems a reasonable compromise, and one that has been accepted throughout the centuries. The idea that a 150 cell blastocyst has rights paramount to the mother or to the burn victim waiting for t-cells seems extreme to some people.

  2. Not to get too off-topic, Jay, but I find most pro-choice advocates seem to take viability as the game-changer on abortion, even the ones who (like me) think life begins at birth.

  3. “Your point is precisely why I dislike ideologues of either conservative or liberal stripe. Typically they throw their argument over the cliff by strict adherence to the rules of their ideology which compel them to take ridiculous positions, their education and training notwithstanding.”

    Hmmmmmm. Like when they argue that a baby can be aborted moments before birth, but legally protected moments after birth perhaps?

  4. binx101:

    Your point is precisely why I dislike ideologues of either conservative or liberal stripe. Typically they throw their argument over the cliff by strict adherence to the rules of their ideology which compel them to take ridiculous positions, their education and training notwithstanding. RAF pilot Douglas Bader had it right when he said: “Rules are for the guidance of the wise and the obedience of fools.”

  5. Jay:

    “Only products of public education with the usual weak English language programs would understand a masculine pronoun as referring to males only.”

    – But, as it is, those making these claims are clearly not from the group you describe. Wallace holds JD degree and this is the entire basis of his suit. By the merits of your argument, the 19th Amendment was unnecessary. 😉

  6. JR,

    For the record, I also blamed sexists in the first instance. Sure, they are trying to make the masculine pronoun serve their own purposes as well, but again, the proper understanding of the masculine pronoun in our English language is that it represents both genders equally in these types of instances.

    Besides, the equal protection language in the amendments would obviously amend any gender confusion issues in the original meanings anyway. Why wouldn’t they?

  7. Jay, you really think the feminists are the ones to blame for this idiocy? You don’t think that this idiocy might actually, you know, underscore their argument that gendered language fosters at least subconsciously perceived inequalities?

    I mean, someone who’s pretty clearly a non-feminist is making a claim that the use of masculine pronouns should restrict women’s participation in government. You don’t think that might actually mean that those feminists supporting gender-neutral language constructs might have a point? Because, on its face, this seems to underscore their argument a lot more than impugn their credibility.

  8. Only products of public education with the usual weak English language programs would understand a masculine pronoun as referring to males only. Anyone with a sound, conservative English language background, recognizes that masculine pronouns refer to both genders especially when the subject’s gender is unknown. And the Founders undoubtedly penned the language to reflect that understanding.

    If there’s any confusion about original meaning, it’s really the sexists, feminists, and liberal English language folks who are making much ado about nothing.

  9. There is a comment on the site of the original article by TheObjective, who wrote: QUOTE ON

    The idiot filing the lawsuit should read the 12th Amendment… “The person having the greatest number of votes for President, shall be the President, if such number be a majority of the whole number of Electors appointed;….” OR… maybe the 14th Amendment which deals with equal protection for born or naturalized citizens (not just male citizens). OR the 22nd Amendment which states no “person” shall serve more than 2 terms as President (it doesn’t say “male person”). Nothing better than a swiss cheese argument from the mentally underdeveloped to brighten the day.

    QUOTE OFF

  10. I think we can all agree that any attempts to thwart the campaigns of Hillary or McCain through technical legal challenges stand no chance of succeeding. That would violate the plot the press has laid out for us.

    The two candidates are almost equivalent in terms of policies. We’re meant to believe they are opposites and that choosing one is important. When in reality, they are both (all 3 actually) the same.

  11. DW, you really want to hear Nibbles’s version of thetan counts?

    Is it just me, or is this not a good rationale for why an ERA would be a good idea–it would prevent us from having to deal with mind-numbing word parsers on at least this issue.

  12. Hillary is unelectable anyway. The even better news is that Obama is even more unelectable.

  13. Forma ante substantiam, mangled Latin indeed.

    Can’t help but notice how these antiquarians all seem to be Republicans.

  14. edit from above: “…this does not mean the statute does not apply to women.”

  15. Most NY Criminal Law Statutes refer to the perpetrator as him/his/he…..this does not the statute does not apply to women.

  16. Jill:

    I am reasonably certain Marple was transported here from the planet of “Form Over Substance.”

  17. This argument reminds me of the papal pronouncment on why women cannot be priests. That is, Jesus was a man. Jesus was also a Jew. The pope isn’t demanding that only Jews be priests, that’s for certain.

    I’m hoping Mr. Wallace is wealthy, white, landed gentry or perhaps he shouldn’t be voting let alone bringing suit.

  18. Yeah, others have thought of this. An idle mind is the ….

    Concord Monitor http://www.concordmonitor.com.
    Article published Feb 20, 2008
    My turn
    Legally, a woman can’t be elected president
    Letter to editor
    By DICK MARPLE
    Feb 20, 2008

    Most people believe not only that the 19th Amendment permitted women the right to vote but that since women serve in Congress, the courts and other offices of government, the office of president of the United States has been de-genderized. Not true. This important legal question exists now and has not been constitutionally addressed. The language and syntax of the 19th Amendment merely removed the barriers that prevented women from voting. It did not identify women to be qualified to become elected president. The language is clear. The 19th Amendment says: “The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.” We cannot read into the amendment something that is not there. Now, had the amendment said, “The right of citizens of the United States to vote or hold public office shall not be denied,” it would have accomplished what the feminists think took place. The Susan B. Anthony Amendment (as it was then known, because the words were actually drafted by the suffragist in 1875) passed in the House by a vote of 304 to 89. The Senate then passed it, 56 to 25. The text of both the House and Senate deliberately avoided any language that would allow or permit women the right to seek the highest office in the land! It was the considered opinion of senators on both sides of the aisle that if language de-genderized the presidency, the amendment’s ratification by the necessary 36 states would be in great doubt. Today’s feminists believe the election process is an evolutionary process, legalized by common practice and that someday a woman will be president. They are convinced that since women have run for the office, the male-gendered presidential office has been neutered . Not so. They will be challenged, and a Supreme Court ruling on the language will be necessary. At the very least a constitutional amendment to change the language will be required.
    (Dick Marple lives in Hooksett.)

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