This Lawmaker Says It's Time To Allow Accent Marks on State Documents

What’s in a name? It turns out that question has relevance long after Shakespeare’s time. In fact, it’s at the center of a bill before the Texas legislature this session.

Rep. Terry Canales (D-Edinburg) wants to make it so that accents – diacritical marks – can be put on state documents like driver’s licenses. He makes the case that without a proper accent, some names are simply different altogether.

The best example of this, Canales says, is his own sister’s name.

“Her name is Shamé, with an accent,” Canales says. “Without [the accent], she’s ‘shame.’”

The result of the exclusion of accents on state documents is disrespectful to the constituents the state is supposed to be serving, Canales says.

“To not be able to pronounce your name correctly, I think, is a huge problem,” Canales says. “Your name is what identifies you and if somebody’s not identifying you correctly, it’s almost a lack of respect.”

The effort to enact this legislation is personal for him, but the sentiment to change it appeals to many Hispanic legislators who also have these elements to their names, Canales says.

His predecessor, Aaron Peña, was also affected by the exclusion of accents. Canales says he once got up and put the tilde on his name on the voting board in the House of Representatives. Since then, Canales said other representatives have followed suit.

“If it’s good enough for the legislators, it sure as heck is good enough for the citizens of Texas,” Canales says.

Although this practice is common in the House, Canales says not everyone is on board to turn this bill into law.

Canales says the criticism he’s received about the bill mostly concerns some people’s belief that English is the state’s official language.

“But at the end of the day, we were Spanish long before we spoke English,” Canales says.

Even if he doesn’t make ground in this fight during this legislative session, Canales says this issue is one he feels passionate enough about to continue pushing it in the future.

“Anybody knows that the Texas legislature is made to kill bills,” Canales says. “Everyday that passes, bills are dying on the vine. But if it doesn’t pass this session, it will definitely be a bill that I re-file.”

Written by Morgan O’Hanlon.

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