On Thursday, September 29, California governor Jerry Brown signed a bill requiring every single-stall bathroom in the state be made available to all genders. The gender-neutral bathroom bill was designed to ensure the LGBTQ community has access to public restrooms in the state, along with parents and caretakers of opposite-sex children and adults, without facing scrutiny over their biological need to use the lavatory. The law will take effect on March 1, 2017; public institutions will have until then to replace gender-specific signs on single-use bathrooms, which proponents of the measure say will cost little more than $40, including labor. Though hard to believe this is even an issue in this day and age, it is certainly a step in the right direction toward guaranteeing every citizen, at least in California, is afforded their basic human rights. Phil Ting, the San Francisco Assemblyman responsible for drafting the bill, said, “For me, it’s ultimately a matter of convenience for the largest number of people. It’s something we all need to use every day and something we all need urgently at a particular time.” Currently, over 150 colleges in the country, which includes every institution that is part of the University of California’s system, have already implemented such measures while a number of cities throughout the country have either proposed or passed similar legislation. California has long stood apart from the masses in its support of inclusivity, with LGBTQ community members and advocates having recently applauded the Sacramento Kings’ announcement that their new stadium, set to open October 1, 2016, will include 23 gender-neutral bathrooms.
Prior to Brown’s passing of the bill, Ting was hopeful he would approve it. He said doing so would “chart a new course of equality for the nation. This simple concept is oddly cutting-edge when compared with the discrimination being enacted in other states.” The proposed legislation was given to Brown in August just one day after a federal judge blocked President Barack Obama’s order requiring public schools to allow their student body to use whichever bathroom corresponded to their gender identity. However, by law, students living in California have been able to do so since 2013, thanks to governor Brown. Brown, always ahead of the curve, also made gender-identity discrimination in the state against the law back in 2011.
This is a positive sign of progress in a time when at least 19 states had previously considered passing laws, with North Carolina actually following through on it, specifying a person’s biological sex must determine which public facility they have access to. This is not to say the new bill (and subsequent law) hasn’t faced criticism from conservatives in the state. The president of the conservative, non-profit organization SaveCalifornia.com, Randy Thomasson, held a firm stance against the bill, claiming gender-neutral bathrooms could lead to serious problems. When writing in opposition he stated, “What woman wants a man poking his head in the restroom door that somehow didn’t shut or lock? How many women want to use a urine-stained toilet seat?” Funny how women are the concern in this instance, but seemingly nowhere else among the conservative agenda.
What Thomasson failed to recognize is that everyone wants privacy when they are using the restroom, and a person’s sex or gender identification has absolutely nothing to do with whether or not they might face someone trying to catch a glimpse or encountering a urine-stained toilet seat. Same-sex restrooms provide no more safety or assurance against this potential occurrence than gender-neutral bathrooms. And what exactly does it say about men in this country if it is automatically assumed their genitalia rules whether or not they want to sneak a peek of a woman using the toilet? Shouldn’t that be of more concern to lawmakers?