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'Lunatic' called inappropriate for federal law; term may be banned

May 01, 2012|By Richard Simon
  • Sens. Kent Conrad (D-N.D.), left, and Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) are co-sponsors of the 21st Century Language Act.
Sens. Kent Conrad (D-N.D.), left, and Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) are co-sponsors… (Associated Press / McClatchy-Tribune )

WASHINGTON -- A move is underway in Congress to strike any reference to "lunatic’’ in federal law in an effort to reduce the stigma of mental illness.

"Federal law should reflect the 21st century understanding of mental illness and disease,’’ Sen. Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) said in introducing the 21st Century Language Act with Sen. Mike Crapo (R-Idaho). "The continued use of this pejorative term has no place in the U.S. Code.’’

The idea for the measure, Conrad said, came from a constituent seeking his help in removing "this outdated and inappropriate language from federal law.

Ohio in 2007 removed words such as lunatic, idiot and insane from its code.

Already, the proposed federal legislation has won the support of mental health groups.

"Deleting these terms from usage in the U.S. code is a simple means of demonstrating respect for individuals living with mental health conditions  and will have no effect on the underlying federal laws,"  the Mental Health Liaison Group said in a letter of support.

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richard.simon@latimes.com

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