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‘Latine’ overtakes Latinx in Connecticut

Gov. Ned Lamont signed H.B.-6909 into law on Mon., June 26 which states that Latino, Latina, and Latine are preferred terms for those of Latin American descent.

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Ending a months-long debate that first started at the beginning of the new year regarding the use of “Latinx” in Connecticut state documents, a new bill signed into law on Monday, June 26 states that “Latine,” “Latino,” and “Latina” are the preferred terminology by Spanish speakers in official government forms and communications. 

H.B.-6909, signed by Gov. Ned Lamont, does not ban “Latinx,” which would’ve been considered aggressive by state officials. 

“If 98 percent of Latinos or Latinas prefer to be called that, we should be worried about offending the majority, not only the minority,” said Democratic state Rep. Geraldo Reyes, one of the main sponsors of the legislation. 

Democratic State Rep. Matt Blumenthal said during a debate in the House last month, that the language of the statute wouldn’t prohibit any official or state agency from using additional terminology, as long as their documents included the terms “"Latino", "Latina" and "Latine.”

According to a 2019 survey by Pew ResearchMany Latinos reported being unfamiliar with the term “Latinx”, a majority of those who said they had heard it used said they still preferred other general terms such as Hispanic or Latino to describe their community. The survey found that just 3 percent of Hispanics used the phrase to describe themselves. 

The League of United Latin American Citizens, LULAC, the oldest Latino civil rights group in the country, announced in 2021 that “Latinx” would no longer be used. 

The complete ban of the term has recently become a new plan of action among conservatives and some Latino Democrats who say “Latinx” was pushed onto the public by non-Spanish speakers for the purpose of its appeal for those who do not identify with either gender.  

Most notably, earlier this year, Arkansas became the first state in the U.S. to ban the use of “Latinx” in official government documents. It was one of the first executive actions the first-year Republican Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders took upon the commencement of her inauguration.  

The former White House Press Secretary under President Donald Trump labeled the term “culturally insensitive.” 

The executive action from Huckabee Sanders might have inspired Reyes and a group of other Latino lawmakers to file H.B.-6909 back in January, attracting attention from national media as well as activists on both sides of the aisle. 

He previously said the term was offensive to him as a Puerto Rican. 

"This has been offensive and derogatory to all Puerto Ricans, and it’s something that hasn’t sat well with a lot of people here for a while," Reyes said. "When I found out that [Sanders] banned it on her first day in the office, I saw that as an opportunity for me to do the same thing."

Reyes said that the legislation’s purpose was “misconstrued” as going against members of the LGBTQ+ community, but after meeting with legislative leaders, the Latino lawmaker said that he and the other co-sponsors agreed to change the public perception of the bill to instead provide more gender-inclusive language that was more accepted by Spanish speakers. 

“I think the word ‘banning’ threw a lot of people off,” Reyes said Tuesday. “Because, at the end of the day, we really don’t want to ban ideology and we really don’t want to ban words.”

Upon re-filing the bill back in May with updated language, it passed both the House and Senate with only a single ‘no’ vote. 

But even with all of the bill’s support among both Democrats and Republicans, some LGBTQ+activists are still disappointed that the issue had gained such traction among Democratic-majorities in the Connecticut State House. 

“Its journey still felt awful to me,” Juancarlos Soto, the Acting Executive Director of the New Haven Pride Center, told the CT Insider.  “It didn’t feel necessary because I don’t feel we should police the terms that people use to identify.”

A native Spanish speaker from Puerto Rico, Soto said he personally uses the term “Latine,” but expressed that some still prefer “Latinx'' or other terms. 

He added that the recent fight over gender-inclusive terms has worsened as it has been mixed in with homophobic and transphobic rhetoric.

“You can’t put that back in the bottle,” he said. 

Gov. Lamont did not release a statement after signing the legislation.

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