The draft for a popular initiative to ban gender language in Hamburg's authorities has cleared the next hurdle. On Tuesday, initiator Sabine Mertens received the official statement from the state returning officer. She had submitted the bill with a request for advice under the referendum law. Initiatives can seek advice from the state voting or elections authority, whereby the state elections authority involves the relevant specialist authorities. This consultation process is now complete. There are apparently no fundamental concerns, which Mertens was pleased about WELT: "After about a year of exchanges regarding the legal certainty of our template, we can now start collecting signatures."
After the CDU parliamentary group and the state chairman Christoph Ploß had already backed the initiative at the beginning of January, the state executive decided on Monday evening to actively support campaigns for signatures of the upcoming popular initiative “End gender language in administration and education” by the district and local associations. Ploß tweeted: "For us it is clear: The ideological gender language has no place in schools, universities and authorities."
Background: In the summer of 2021, the Hamburg Senate decided on guidelines for dealing with language, which should be used in particular in the Hamburg administration, but does not contain any obligation, but speaks of "additional possibilities". The equality expert of the Greens, Mareike Engels, called the recommendations to WELT at the beginning of January "a real step forward", "since they create the opportunity to address people in their differences respectfully and without discrimination".
Mertens, on the other hand, fears gender language and has been committed to it for a long time, including as head of the "AG Gendersprache" in the German language association. At the district court in Hamburg, she had sued a publisher in Bonn because in its magazine "Training aktuell" the term "draughtsman" used by her had been turned into the "drawing person". With reference to copyright, she demanded monetary compensation. The lawsuit ended in a settlement.
It is still a long time before the actual referendum against gendering. From the end of this week, Hamburg residents who want to vote against gender-neutral language in letters from the authorities should be able to cast their vote. In the first phase, the initiative needs 10,000 signatures within six months, and in the second step another 66,000.
The referendum could then take place at the earliest together with the election for the 23rd Hamburg Parliament, rather with the federal election in 2025. Mertens: "The Hamburg Parliament has the opportunity to grant the request in every phase of the three-stage referendum, so that the remaining phases would then be superfluous." At the moment, however, that seems rather unlikely in the red-green Senate.