Someone, sometime, actually noticed that a law was…old? outdated? blatantly sexist? oddly and inconsistently sexist? And amended it. Amazing.*
Here is the original, offending section of law (this is D.C. Law 5-84, effective May 22, 1984, and for anyone crazy enough to be interested in finding the whole thing, it is published at 31 DCR 1815 April 20, 1984):
Section 14. Order of Priority of Next of Kin
The oldest adult member of each class shall have prior claim of the human remains over the others in the same class, as follows: spouse, adult child, father, other, adult brother, adult sister, adult grandchild, adult nephew or niece, paternal grandparent, maternal grandparent, paternal uncle or aunt, maternal uncle or aunt…
Okay, so this was back in the olden days of the mid-1980s when we weren’t so enlighted. But how hard would it have been to say “spouse, adult child, parent, adult sibling,” and so forth? Or if we really did care about sexism, why not “spouse, adult son, adult daughter,” and so forth?
*This section was rewritten in 2001. I cannot be sure, but I suspect that in part the re-write, and consequently the removal of the sexist language, was motivated by a need to permit same-sex partners rights corresponding to that of a spouse. However, when it was re-written, it took the nice and simple language that was in the original and turned it into legalese gobbledy-gook (this is what is now codified at D.C. Code 3-413):
(a) Unless other directions have been given by the decedent, the right to control the disposition of the remains of a deceased person, the location and conditions of interment, and arrangements for funeral goods and services shall vest in the following in the order of priority named:
(1) The competent surviving spouse, or domestic partner, as defined under § 32-701(3);
(2) The sole surviving competent adult child of the decedent, or if there is more than one competent child of the decedent, the majority of the survivingcompetent adult children; provided, that less than a majority of the surviving competent adult children shall be vested with the rights and duties under this section if they have used reasonable efforts to notify all other surviving competent adult children of their instructions and are not aware of any opposition to those instructions by more than a majority of all surviving competent adult children;
(3) The surviving competent parent or parents of the decedent; provided, that if one of the surviving competent parents is absent, the remaining competent parent shall be vested with the rights and duties under this section if reasonable efforts to locate the other parent are unsuccessful;
(4) The surviving competent adult person in the next degrees of kindred; provided, that if there is more than one surviving competent adult person of the same degree of kindred, the rights and duties under this section shall be vested in the majority of those persons; provided further, that less than the majority of surviving competent adult persons of the same degree of kindred shall be vested with the rights and duties of this section if those persons have used reasonable efforts to notify all other surviving competent adult persons of the same degree of kindred of their instructions and are not aware of any opposition to those instructions by more than a majority of all surviving competent adult persons of the same degree of kindred; and
(5) An adult friend or volunteer.