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    All Gender Restroom Access

    philRestrooms are a necessity of life.  Everyone should be able to use public restrooms in peace in order to participate in public life on equal terms. This makes public restroom access a civil rights issue.

    In order to move towards greater equality, I introduced Assembly Bill (AB) 1732. It would establish the nation’s most progressive restroom access law among the states. The bill requires all single occupancy restrooms in California businesses, government buildings, and public spaces to be identified as “all gender.”

    Supported by Equality California, the Transgender Law Center, California NOW and the Golden Gate Restaurant Association, this legislation would align state law with similar restroom access laws emerging in cities across the country. Around the Bay, Berkeley has such an ordinance and San Francisco now has one under consideration.

    Restricting single use restroom access by gender is a lingering tradition that defies common sense today. When needed, many ignore restrictive single occupancy restroom signs. For some, however, the signs create more significant problems that require a statewide fix.

    For transgender and gender non-conforming people, there is a significant safety problem. A survey conducted by the Williams Institute at the University of California Los Angeles found that 70 percent of this population has been verbally harassed, denied access or physically assaulted in association with the use of gender restricted public restrooms.

    Women continue to endure a lack of fair restroom access. Most of our buildings have inadequate restroom facilities to accommodate women. Consequently, women are forced to wait or postpone having their needs met in public.

    Parents or caretakers of dependents of the opposite gender face convenience issues. When out in public, they frequently have no choice but to break a social norm when a restroom is designated for a specific use. As a father of two girls, I know this all too well.

    We need universal access to single use restrooms. It’s what we experience in our homes, at many restaurants, and on airplanes.

    This simple idea comes in a compelling context. Last December, a discriminatory initiative failed to qualify for the state ballot. The so-called “Personal Privacy Protection Act” would have required persons to use restrooms based on their biological sex. It would have penalized transgender Californians no less than $4,000 each time they exercised their right to use restrooms corresponding with their gender identity.

    As we look across the country, there is similar but less ambitious legislation pending in other states. In New York, a pending bill would require a “gender neutral” designation for all single-use bathrooms in state owned or operated buildings. In Vermont, pending legislation would require newly constructed or renovated state buildings to include “gender neutral” restrooms. These efforts, especially mine, stand in stark contrast to a pending bill in Indiana that would make it a misdemeanor to knowingly enter a single-use restroom of the opposite sex.

    Fighting over who gets to use the bathroom alone is silly. Let’s move on in California and do so in a way where everyone’s rights are respected and welcomed. That’s what my bill is all about.

    It is time for a change and that starts by changing restroom signs. As we have seen before in the civil rights movement, changing signs is a first step to ensure everyone is treated equally. That is why we need to change signs for the times.

    Phil Ting represents the 19th Assembly District, which includes the Westside of San Francisco along with the communities of Broadmoor, Colma, and Daly City.