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California's Gender Neutral Bathroom Bill

By Christopher Coble, Esq. on May 17, 2016 11:58 AM

While some states have been suing the federal government for the right to discriminate against transgender people when it comes to bathroom access, California is going in the other direction. The same state that led the way on transgender student access to bathrooms in schools just passed a bill requiring all public, single-occupancy bathrooms in the state be gender neutral.

The new law would allow anyone to access these bathrooms, regardless of gender identity. So will the Golden State's take on transgender bathroom access be the norm, or remain an outlier?

Equal Rights, Equal Access

California already has laws prohibiting discrimination against transgender people, including restroom access. That law allows a person to access common bathrooms that correspond with their gender identity. The new bill would take the law further, barring single-use restrooms in businesses, government buildings, and public places from being reserved for either gender. (Proponents of the law also point out that gender neutral bathrooms will reduce wait times, since anyone can now use bathrooms that were previously reserved for either more or women.)

But the bill hasn't become law quite yet. While the measure passed California's House on a 55-19 margin, it must still get through the State Senate and governor. And no date has been set for either consideration.

California in Context

Transgender bathroom access has become a hot-button issue in recent years, with some states expanding access and others pushing back. Most infamously, North Carolina recently passed a law prohibiting people from using bathrooms with gender designations different from those on their birth certificates.

But the federal government, who has the last word on civil rights issues, has been fighting discrimination against transgender people. The Department of Justice responded swiftly to the North Carolina law, filing a discrimination lawsuit against state officials in an effort to block the law. And the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission recently advised business to allow bathroom access to employees based on their chosen gender identity.

If California's history holds, the gender neutral bathroom bill will soon become law, and we'll all have an easier time going to the bathroom. If you have questions about bathroom access where you live, you can contact an experienced civil rights attorney near you.

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