California Gov. Jerry Brown this week signed into law a very different kind of "bathroom bill" for his state. Rather than restrict access to public restrooms for transgender people, as is the case of North Carolina's infamous House Bill 2, California's new legislation will ensure equal access to public toilets, regardless of a person's gender identity.
Starting next spring, all of California's single-user restrooms in public buildings will be designated as "gender neutral." According to Assemblyman Phil Ting, a Democrat who sponsored the bill, this establishes "the nation’s most inclusive restroom access law among states."
Technically designated as AB 1732, the bill reads:
All single-user toilet facilities in any business establishment, place of public accommodation, or state or local government agency shall be identified as all-gender toilet facilities by signage that complies with Title 24 of the California Code of Regulations, and designated for use by no more than one occupant at a time or for family or assisted use.
It goes on to explain that a single-user toilet is one which contains "no more than one water closet and one urinal with a locking mechanism controlled by the user."
In other words, if it's a bathroom with one toilet and a locking door, it's open to anyone, regardless of how they self-identify.
"California is charting a new course for equality,” said Ting in a statement released upon news of Gov. Brown's bill signing. “Restricting access to single-user restrooms by gender defies common sense and disproportionately burdens the LGBT community, women, and parents or caretakers of dependents of the opposite gender. Bathroom access is a biological need. This law will ensure more safety, fairness, and convenience access for everyone"
The new legislation comes just days after Governor Brown signed into law a different bill that restricts some California officials from traveling to states that allow "discrimination against same-sex couples or their families or on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression." The bill was a reaction, in part, to North Carolina's anti-LGBTQ bathroom bill.
"North Carolina finds itself increasingly isolated, with its economy losing up to billions of dollars in cancelled conferences, sports events and concerts,” Rick Zbur, Executive Director of Equality California, said in a statement about AB 1732's signing. “Meanwhile, California has, with a minimum of controversy, moved in a different direction. We now have a policy that gives everyone greater privacy and safety in public restrooms - it, and not hateful laws in North Carolina, Mississippi and elsewhere, should be the model for the nation
AB 1732 was passed by wide margins in both California's state assembly and senate. It will not go into effect until March of 2017, allowing for ample time to implement the measure.