Offensive terms stripped from Illinois law books

  • Palatine-based Kerry M. Lavelle lobbied the state to remove terms like "mentally retarded" and "crippled" from state satute books. "These are two very archaic, bad, nondescriptive words," he said.

    Palatine-based Kerry M. Lavelle lobbied the state to remove terms like "mentally retarded" and "crippled" from state satute books. "These are two very archaic, bad, nondescriptive words," he said.

  • Matt Murphy

    Matt Murphy

 
 
Updated 7/29/2011 5:47 AM

SPRINGFIELD -- Illinois' law books will soon be free of some terminology offensive to the disabled as part of a plan pushed by a Palatine-based attorney and signed into law by Gov. Pat Quinn Thursday.

Attorney Kerry Lavelle has said he asked Sen. Matt Murphy to carry the legislation because certain off-color terms for the disabled leave him "fuming."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

His sister, Shannon, has a disability and resides at Mount St. Joseph, an immediate care facility in Lake Zurich.

The new law removes from state statute books phrases like "mentally retarded" and substitutes "intellectually disabled." Similarly, it replaces "crippled" with "physically disabled."

Talking about the plan earlier this year, Lavelle said changing the law books was just one step toward trying to eliminate the terms throughout language.

"These are two very archaic, bad, nondescriptive words," he said then.

Quinn signed the plan into law Thursday along with dozens of other proposals.

"Language is one of our most important tools, and we must be aware of how the words we choose impact others," Quinn spokeswoman Annie Thompson said. "Just as words that denigrate and marginalize others should not be used in daily conversations, they should not be used in our laws."

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Murphy, a Palatine Republican who sponsored the plan in the Senate, said he was glad to hear Quinn signed off.

"These are the laws of all the people of Illinois," he said.

The idea behind the 623-page piece of legislation isn't unique to Illinois. Several states have already made similar changes.

Last year, President Barack Obama signed "Rosa's Law" to remove similar terms from federal law.