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New York enacts legislation that requires single-person bathrooms to be gender neutral

All gender restroom sign with Braille code and wheelchair symbol on the side of a wooden panel wall of building.
Photo: Shutterstock

The state of New York has enacted legislation that will require public, single-occupancy bathrooms to become available to all people, regardless of their gender. This means trans, non-binary and gender non-conforming people in the fourth-most populous state in the United States can use such facilities without restrictions.

Governor Andrew Cuomo (D) signed the bill on December 23. It affects buildings belonging to school districts, charter schools, state or community colleges, restaurants and bars, mercantile establishments, factories, and any others that are state owned or operated.

Related: New York will soon allow non-binary “X” gender markers on drivers licenses

Gov. Cuomo’s signature comes after it passed both the state assembly and senate in July. More than 100 LGBTQ groups expressed their support for the legislation in an open letter earlier this month.

Out state Assemblymember Daniel J. O’Donnell (D), who initiated the law that bought marriage equality to New York State, and state Senator Julia Salazar (D) were the chief sponsors of the proposal. It was first introduced by O’Donnell in 2017, before being reintroduced in the Assembly in February 2019. Salazar bought the proposal to the Senate in June 2019.

“This doesn’t cost anybody any money,” O’Donnell previously said on the proposal. “If you unscrew the ‘M’ and the ‘W,’ then you’ve complied with the law.”

The new legislation will “amend the civil rights law and the education law, in relation to single occupancy bathroom facilities” to “designate all single occupancy bathroom facilities in public places and in all public and private schools as gender neutral.”

Vermont, Illinois and California already have proposed and passed similar laws. Many sought such proposals to counteract laws, like those once enacted in North Carolina and Texas, that sought to restrict bathroom facilities based on sex.

“This isn’t just about restrooms,” O’Donnell wrote in a thread of tweets. “It’s about transgender, gender nonconforming, and nonbinary peoples’ right to be themselves anywhere in New York State.”

O’Donnell said the bill passed the Assembly unanimously months ago, and the state senate website reflects that it passed with a large margin there due to bipartisan support, 52-8. It was then delivered to Gov. Cuomo, and he had until Christmas Eve to sign it into law or return it.

“Our trans, gender-conforming and non-binary siblings deserve to feel safe and be affirmed,” said Brian Romero, President of the Stonewall Democrats of New York City, on Twitter.

It becomes enforceable starting in 90 days from its enactment, so as early as late March, according to the text published by the state senate.