Monday Seattle City Council unanimously passed legislation requiring all City-controlled and privately operated places of public accommodation to designate existing and future single-stall restrooms as all-gender facilities. The legislation also clarifies existing law allowing individuals to use the restroom of their chosen gender identity or expression. The legislation was a recommendation from the Mayor’s LGBT Task Force and the City of Seattle’s LGBTQ Commission.
“The action taken today by the City Council will make Seattle a more welcoming place for everyone, regardless of race, gender, or sexual orientation,” said Mayor Murray. “No one should live in fear when they use basic accommodations most of us take for granted. That’s why we sent this legislation to the Seattle City Council. I applaud the Council for taking this important step to provide respect and safety for members of the transgender community.”
This legislation will provide for all-gender restroom facilities and amend the Seattle Municipal Code so that single-occupant restrooms will no longer be restricted to a specific sex or gender identity. Single-occupant restrooms in City facilities and all public accommodations (including restaurants, coffee shops, stores, etc.) must have signage that makes it clear that they are not gender exclusive and allow use by any person regardless of sex or gender identity, rather than just “men” or “women.” The Seattle Office of Civil Rights (SOCR) will be responsible for enforcing these changes.
Despite existing laws protecting a person’s right to use a restroom consistent with their gender identity, transgender and gender nonconforming people are frequently excluded from using facilities consistent with their gender identity, and use of gender-segregated restrooms can create unnecessary risk for transgender and gender nonconforming people.
“Everyone, regardless of gender, deserves the ability to meet their most basic needs. All-gender single occupancy bathrooms are practical and help ensure everyone has equal access to a quality life,” said Councilmember Jean Godden. “This small step represents acceptance and freedom for many. I’m proud Seattleites are as dedicated as I am to pursuing equality and eliminating inequity wherever it exists.”
“Enacting this civil rights legislation that requires all single-stall restrooms as all-gender restrooms should not be understated,” said Councilmember Bruce Harrell, chair of the Public Safety, Civil Rights, and Technology committee. “This is an inclusive and progressive measure that ensures all individuals have equal access to take care of their health needs. Let’s be defined by our compassion and inclusiveness.”
In July of this year, the Mayor and his LGBT Task Force released an action plan to support LGBTQ safety. The Task Force was convened in response to anti-LGBTQ hate crimes or incidents reported to Seattle police. The plan is organized into four areas: Public Safety, LGBTQ Youth, the Built Environment, and Public Understanding. One of the key Built Environment proposals was for the City to clarify that individuals have the right to use a restroom appropriate to their gender identity or expression.