New York Mayor's Order Assures Restroom Access in City Buildings

Mayor Bill de Blasio

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has issued an executive order assuring that in city-owned buildings, transgender and gender-nonconforming people will be able to use the sex-segregated restrooms, locker rooms, and other facilities comporting with their gender identity.

The order, signed today, goes into effect immediately, reports Newsday. It applies to city offices, parks, recreation centers, pools, some museums, and other city properties, and allows access without users having to show identification or other proof of gender.

It assures that “all of the folks who work in city government understand how important it is to respect people’s rights and not put them in very degrading and humiliating circumstances,” de Blasio said at a news conference, according to Newsday.

There is already a similar policy in place for the city’s public schools. And a bill is pending in the City Council that would require both private and public buildings to make single-occupancy public restrooms gender-neutral.

New York City’s Human Rights Law has banned discrimination based on gender identity since 2002, and the city’s Commission on Human Rights recently advised that such discrimination would include denial of access to restrooms or other facilities.

“New York City is the birthplace of the fight for LGBT rights, and we continue to lead in that fight so every New Yorker can live with dignity,” de Blasio said at the news conference, Newsday reports.

Several activists applauded the mayor’s action. “No one should have to face fear, intimidation, or harassment when simply trying to use the bathroom,” said Sarah Kate Ellis, president and CEO of GLAAD, in a press release. “New York City is once again leading by example, making sure that every person can go to the restroom with dignity and peace. GLAAD applauds Mayor de Blasio’s ongoing commitment to protecting LGBT New Yorkers, which is raising the bar for inclusion in cities across the nation.”

Sean Coleman, executive director of LGBT youth organization Destination Tomorrow, praised the order to Newsday as “someone who knows firsthand the anxieties associated with something as simple as using the public restroom.”

De Blasio, a Democrat, said moves like his order are needed to counter the exclusionary rhetoric spouted by Republican presidential candidates. “Somehow, hate is making a comeback,” he said, according to Newsday. In a reference to Texas Sen. Ted Cruz’s critique of the city, de Blasio added, “New York values are needed more now than ever. We think an attack on one is an attack on the rest of us.”