California takes step toward enacting “All Gender” restrooms

This week, in a bipartisan 14-0 vote, California lawmakers advanced AB 1732, a bill that would require all single-occupancy restrooms in California businesses, government buildings, and public spaces to be identified as “all gender,” instead of exclusively for a single gender (either “men’s” or “women’s”).

According to TIME, such an expansive bill has never been passed at the state level, although similar measures are already effective at the city level in San Francisco, Seattle, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., and Austin, Texas. Assemblymember Phil Ting, the bill’s primary sponsor, said that the measure is “simple but necessary” to protect everyone’s rights.

Executive Director of Transgender Law Center Kris Hayashi said in a press release,“By making single-user restrooms accessible to all genders, this law will make life easier for everyone and reduce the harassment regularly experienced by transgender people and others who don’t match people’s stereotypes of what it looks like to be a man or a woman.”

Jerilyn Stapleton, President of California NOW, adds, “We have universal bathroom access at home and on airplanes so why not require it in public buildings?”

The California bill’s step forward is a small victory amidst a hostile climate of nationwide anti-LGBT legislation that have passed in the past two weeks alone in states such as North Carolina and Mississippi. Earlier this year, there was a proposed bill in Indiana that would have made it a misdemeanor for a person to knowingly enter a restroom that didn’t correspond with their perceived chromosomes (yes, chromosomes).

Last month, South Dakota’s governor blocked a bill that would have made South Dakota the first in the nation to require transgender students in the state’s public schools to use bathrooms and locker rooms that correspond with the sex they were assigned at birth.

According to a report by the Human Rights Campaign, there are currently 44 anti-transgender bills filed in 16 states so far in 2016, which is double the amount from 2015. Over half of these bills (23) target children. This startlingly huge number illustrates the hostile climate for transgender people in the United States: according to the ACLU, more than 22 transgender women — almost all of them women of color — were murdered in 2015. There have been at least 7 known murders of trans people in 2016, and it’s only April.

There’s still a long way to go before the California bill becomes a law — it still needs to be passed by the appropriations committee, voted on by the State Assembly, Senate, and signed by the Governor.Optimistically, there is also similar legislation pending in the state of New York that would require a gender neutral designation for all single-occupancy restrooms in state owned or operated buildings. Vermont also has legislation pending that would require newly constructed or renovated state buildings to include gender neutral restrooms.

While less restrictive restroom access will not eliminate transphobia, “Restrooms are a necessity of life. Access to them influences our ability to participate in public life,” said Assemblymember Ting. “Signs restricting single-use restroom access by gender create problems of convenience, fairness, and safety. They defy common sense, which is why many of us ignore them. ‘All gender’ signs will end these problems and ensure everyone’s rights are protected.”

Word. Please, let’s all do better.