News (USA)

House Democrats support more gender-neutral bathrooms on Capitol Hill

bathroom sign that says "We don't care."
Photo: AP

A staff-led effort to add more gender-neutral bathrooms throughout Capitol Hill gained the support of two top Democrats this week. The Hill reports that Reps. Katherine Clark (D-MA) and Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) have signed on to help create a more inclusive and comfortable environment for transgender, non-binary, and “other traditionally underrepresented communities” in the halls of Congress.

In a letter sent to Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), who chairs the Committee on House Administration, the lawmakers asserted that “all employees, interns, and visitors should have access to safe and comfortable restrooms. For members of the transgender, gender nonconforming and disability communities, that often means the availability of single stall or single-occupancy restrooms.”

Related: Trans discrimination not limited to bathrooms

Clark, the Assistant Speaker, and Jeffries, the chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, note that there the only single-occupancy restroom in the Longworth building on the House side of Capitol Hill is in the basement. They framed the current status quo as an obstacle to a more diverse workplace, which in turn affects Congress’s ability to represent all Americans effectively.

“As lawmakers, we can more effectively represent our constituents when our staff and interns reflect the diversity of the American people,” their letter reads. “Absent improvements, we in Congress are limiting our ability to hire and retain individuals who belong to these communities.”

Capitol Hill staff and visitors as well as members of the LGBT Congressional Staff Association have shared concerns over the lack of appropriate facilities, according to the letter.

“Implementing single-use restrooms will make a visible difference in the lives of transgender and gender non-conforming individuals, as well as other marginalized communities, including people with disabilities, older adults, and parents of small children,” Clark and Jeffries write. “As such, we ask for further examination of this issue and for your facilitation in installing additional restroom facilities to better accommodate those who work or seek to work in the House of Representatives.”

Bathroom access for transgender and gender-nonconforming individuals has been an issue for years, with Republican lawmakers leading efforts to ban trans people from using public restrooms that conform with their gender identity.

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