Bill looks to make single-occupant restrooms gender-neutral

By: Fatemeh Paryavi, Capital News Service

ANNAPOLIS, Md. — Many public buildings in Maryland would be required to make their single-occupant bathrooms gender neutral under legislation in the state’s General Assembly.

The proposed law would require public facilities to change their pictorial or gender-exclusive signage for single-toilet bathrooms to gender neutral, according to the bill’s state legislative analysis.

It would apply to places of “public accommodation,” including hotels, theaters, sports venues, restaurants and other similar facilities.

The lead sponsor of Senate bill 401, Sen. Cheryl Kagan, D-Montgomery, told Capital News Service last week that new signs could be purchased online for as little as $15.

The bill would make more restrooms available for women, who tend to wait in lengthier bathroom lines than men, Kagan said at the hearing Wednesday.

She added that it would ensure that people with disabilities wouldn’t need to navigate the building in order to find a gender-specific restroom, as well as making it easier for parents and caretakers to enter the restroom in order to assist their family member or patient.

The bill would also aim to help people who are transgender to feel more comfortable using the single-occupant restrooms, she said at the hearing.

Localities would be allowed to set their own fines, not to exceed $250, under this legislation.

The bill has bipartisan support, as Sen. Chris West, R-Baltimore County, is co-sponsoring the legislation.

Silvie Gallardo, the mother of an 8-year-old child from Bethesda, Maryland, said her son is on the autism spectrum, and testified in favor of the bill at its Wednesday hearing.

She said that she’s not asking lawmakers to provide an attendant for her son, she’s asking them to remove a label so that she can more comfortably help her son use the restroom.

The MoCo Pride Center submitted written testimony in support of the bill, writing that it would be more welcoming to “transgender, non-binary or gender non-conforming people.”

The bill also saw support from businesses. The Greener Kitchen in Baltimore submitted testimony in support of the bill, writing that it “prioritizes having gender inclusive restrooms in our space because we believe in making our restaurant accessible to all.”

An identical House bill, 1147, is set to have a hearing on March 3 led by sponsor Delegate Jared Solomon, D-Montgomery.