Senate approves bill striking word 'lunatic' from federal law

The Senate on Wednesday quickly approved legislation that would remove the word "lunatic" everywhere it appears in the federal code.

The Senate approved S. 2367 by unanimous consent, giving the House a chance to act if it wishes, although no House member has introduced a similar bill.

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Sen. Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) introduced the bill back in late April with Sen. Mike Crapo (R-Idaho). Conrad said the bill was the result of a conversation with a constituent, who said current law casts a stigma on people with mental disabilities. "Sen. Crapo and I agree that 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 said in April.

The word "lunatic" appears in the U.S. Code in Title 1, Chapter 1, which covers rules of construction. Chapter 1 holds that when determining the meaning of any law, "the words 'insane' and 'insane person' and 'lunatic' shall include every idiot, lunatic, insane person, and person non compos mentis."

According to Conrad's bill, it also appears in laws related to banking that deal with the authority to take receivership of estates.

In April, several health groups supported Conrad's decision to introduce the bill.


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