Gender-neutral bathrooms
Gender-neutral bathroom located in a Los Angeles high school. Photo: Getty Images

Effective July 1, all single-user public restrooms will become gender-neutral bathrooms in the state of Vermont. Republican Gov. Phil Scott signed this bill, dubbed H.333, on Friday.  

 

The bill states that "a single-user toilet may be identified by a sign, provided that the sign marks the facility as a restroom and does not indicate any specific gender." It will apply to public buildings or places of public accommodation such as offices, schools and restaurants, and the bathrooms found in these spaces must be "gender-free." It does not apply to restrooms with more than one toilet.

 

According to CNN, the bill for gender-neutral bathrooms was passed by the House in April 2017 and reached the Senate a year later. Here it was passed unanimously.

 

In February 2017, the Trump administration rolled back protections established under the Obama administration that gave transgender students in public schools the right to use bathrooms aligning with their gender identity. Scott noted the Vermont bill is "especially important for kids in school who face anxiety and bullying over something as simple as using the restroom. Treating others in this way is not who we are as Vermonters, and I hope the signing of this bill will send a powerful message that that's not the way we act."

 

Sen. Becca Ballint, a Democrat, said back in April that gender-neutral bathrooms will benefit people in the Vermont trans community as well as a wide range of other citizens.

"For trans people and gender non-conforming individuals, it provides safe public accommodations," she told the Burlington Free Press. "For men and women stuck in long bathroom lines, it provides access to any available single-user bathroom. And for caregivers ... whether children or folks with disabilities needing assistance, it provides access to a bathroom that is not marked for one particular gender, thus alleviating the anxiety that’s caused by needing to choose a gendered bathroom."

More on gender-neutral bathrooms

In 2017, many states considered legislation to pass "bathroom bills" mandating that people use restrooms, locker rooms, etc. that align with their sex assigned at birth. And according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, there are 13 of these bills still pending in states such as Texas, Tennessee and Illinois.

North Carolina was the only state to have one of these bills — House Bill 2 — passed in March 2016, but it was repealed the following year.

According to the American Civil Liberties Union, as of 2018, 18 states and the District of Columbia have adopted laws prohibiting discrimination against transgender people in "employment, housing, and public accommodations." At least 200 cities — New York City, Philadelphia and Dallas, to name a few — have followed suit on the local level. Executive orders have also been signed by governors from Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, New York and Pennsylvania.

"In the face of the kind of hysteria that has been generated around transgender restrooms in other states, this makes commons sense," Rep. Bill Lippert Jr., one of the co-sponsors of Vermont's gender-neutral bathrooms bill, said of this legislation. "Because it really makes a difference for transgender people who want to use a bathroom where they feel safe. It is satisfying to take the next step forward."

One Vermont high school student told the Associated Press at the time of the bill signing, "There are people in this room who purposefully do not drink more than a certain amount during the day just so they don’t have to validate their entire existence every time they need to do the most natural thing in the world." He added that this law is only the beginning — that facilities must push onwards to be more trans-inclusive in the future.