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October 08, 2015

City Council approves gender-neutral bathroom bill

Single occupancy bathrooms in municipal buildings to be open to all

Single occupancy bathrooms in city-owned municipal buildings will now be gender-neutral, thanks to a bill that passed Thursday in Philadelphia City Council.

The bill, introduced by City Councilman Mark Squilla, will require all single-occupancy bathrooms in any city-owned building open to the public to install gender-neutral signage to allow the facilities to be utilized by anyone who needs them. 

After City Council voted to approve the bill, Squilla said that he realized just how important the gender-neutral bathrooms could be, when, during the weekend of the pope's visit to the city, he saw long lines at women's bathrooms set up for the crowd, but not many lines at men's rooms.

Eventually, the councilman said, he saw event organizers change signage to allow the single-occupancy bathrooms to be open to anyone and the lines disappeared. 

"Female bathrooms had lines around the block," he recalled. "But, then they changed it to allow anyone to use them." 

During the morning meeting, there was only one woman, who didn't talk to a reporter after her comment in order to identify herself, that objected to the change in the bathroom plan.

Asking council to vote down the bill, the woman quoted Scripture and said that "God doesn't like" homosexuals. 

She also said that she worried that if bathrooms are gender-neutral, men could come in and assault her. 

"They might want to rape me or something else," she told Council members. 

But Squilla seemingly eased her mind as he stood to address her after her comments, noting that only single-occupancy restrooms would be affected by the bill. 

"Multi-use bathrooms are still the same," said the councilman.