In another progressive victory in a New England state, Vermont Gov. Phil Scott has signed into law a bill mandating that all single-user public restrooms in the state be marked as gender-neutral.
Scott signed the bill Friday, CNN reports. It stands to benefit not only transgender people but people with disabilities and many others.
The Vermont House passed the bill by a large margin in April 2017, but it did not come to a Senate vote until a year later, CNN notes. However, it passed unanimously in the Senate when the vote was finally taken last month. Both chambers have a Democratic majority, but Scott is a Republican.
“Two years ago, when I was running for governor, I was asked in a debate whether I would support gender-neutral bathrooms in public places or not," Scott said at the bill-signing ceremony. “I responded with a one-word answer, a simple yes. Because to me it was just that simple. Why wouldn’t we do that? And now two years later I am honored to be able to sign that legislation into law today.”
He added, “This 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. Vermont has a well-earned reputation for embracing equality and being inclusive.”
The law applies to “restaurants, retail stores, schools, workplaces or any other place defined in state law as a public building or place of public accommodation, “ the Burlington Free Press reports. It goes into effect July 1. A similar law in California, the first of its kind in the nation, went into effect in 2017.
Vermont already had a law banning discrimination based on gender identity in public accommodations as well as employment and housing, but the new law will further improve access for transgender people and others, supporters said.
“In the face of the kind of hysteria that has been generated around transgender restrooms in other states, this makes commons sense,” said Rep. Bill Lippert Jr., a cosponsor, according to CNN. “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.”
In neighboring New Hampshire, Gov. Chris Sununu is expected to sign a gender identity nondiscrimination bill into law soon. It was the last New England state without such a law.