Congress Overwhelmingly Votes to Ban the Word ‘Lunatic’

Who says Washington can't get anything done?

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U.S. Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) speaks during a press conference at the U.S. Capitol on March 21, 2012 in Washington, DC.

Who says Washington can’t get anything done?

Our duly elected representatives have a reputation for being forever locked in disagreement, but apparently they can reach a conclusion when facing issues of linguistic politics. On Wednesday, the House of Representatives voted 398-1 in support of a bill banning the use of the word “lunatic” in all federal legislation, the BBC reported.

The House vote comes after the Senate approved the motion in May. The bill, which will now be passed on to President Obama for his signature, is intended to erase outdated or derogatory terms from the U.S. legal code.

“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,” Senator Kent Conrad of North Dakota, one of the sponsors of the measure, said.

The legislation specifically points to a section of banking regulation that calls for a bank authority to serve as a “committee of estates of lunatics,” the New York Times noted.

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Mental health organizations, such as the Mental Health Liaison Group, supported the word’s elimination from federal literature. Advocates of the bill argued that the inclusion of such antiquated terms as “lunatic” perpetuates the social stigma surrounding mental illness. The expression itself comes from the Latin word for moon and stems from an ancient belief that people could become mentally unstable, or “moonstruck,” during certain lunar changes, according to the New York Times.

Bob Carolla from the National Alliance on Mental Illness told the Associated Press that he’d also like to see terms such as “mental defective” stricken from the books. The newly approved bill follows a 2010 measure that prohibited the use of “retarded” and “retardation” in health, education and labor laws.

Who was the one representative to vote “no” on the wildly popular “lunatic” ban? Texas congressman Louie Gohmert, who promptly issued a statement explaining his objections.

“Not only should we not eliminate the word ‘lunatic’ from federal law when the most pressing issue of the day is saving our country from bankruptcy,” Gohmert said, “we should use the word to describe the people who want to continue with business as usual in Washington.”

Gohmert can continue to call his opponents “lunatics” all he wants, but it doesn’t seem like he’ll get the government’s blessing.

MORE: One in Five American Workers Suffer Mental Illness