Single-occupant restrooms at restaurants, bars and other public places in New York City will all be gender-neutral under a new law signed Tuesday by Mayor Bill de Blasio.
The bill, which requires that “men” and “women” signs on single-stall restrooms be replaced with ones indicating they are unisex, is “yet another step toward becoming a place where all can live with dignity, free from fear and free from judgment,” the mayor said.
The legislation was designed with transgender people in mind, though it could also benefit the women who get stuck in long lines while the men’s room is empty and parents tending to children of the opposite sex.
Similar legislation has been adopted in cities including Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., and Austin, Texas.
The New York bill passed the City Council on a 47-2 vote last week and has met with little opposition.
“Most New Yorkers take their unfettered access to bathrooms for granted, yet every single day, transgender and gender nonconforming individuals must grapple with the fact that their choices may lead to harassment or worse,” City Councilman Danny Dromm told CBS New York after the vote.
“Other places in the country are trying to divide Americans with small-minded things, such as who can use a restroom. We’re dedicated to accommodating all people in New York City,” speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito said.
Kevin Dugan, regional director of the New York State Restaurant Association, which has lobbied against previous bills like the one requiring chain eateries to post calorie counts, said he didn’t expect the bathroom law to hurt business.
“As long as education is first and foremost, we have no problem,” Dugan said.
New Yorkers interviewed near City Hall said they supported the new law.
“It sounds like the same thing we have in our house,” said Mark Teitelbaum, of Brooklyn. “If it’s closed, who cares?”
Krystyna Pereyra, of Queens, said some women already use single-stall men’s rooms if there’s a line at the women’s room, but others hesitate to do so.
“We will be in line for a long time and not use the other bathroom just because there is a picture of a man on the door,” Pereyra said.
City Councilman Danny Dromm noted during the bill signing that the law might result in longer bathroom waits for men. He added, “We can accept that.”
The new signs must be in place by Jan. 1.
SOURCE: CBS News, The Associated Press