The County Council unanimously passed legislation Tuesday that requires county buildings and some businesses to have gender-inclusive restrooms.
The bill, upon County Executive Marc Elrich’s signature, would apply to public-single user restrooms, which means that they lock from the inside and are available for use by one person. Council Vice President Evan Glass and Council Member Sidney Katz were the lead sponsors.
Gender inclusive “means speaking and writing in a way that does not discriminate against a particular sex, social gender or gender identity, and does not perpetuate gender stereotypes,” according to the United Nations.
Private restrooms in inns, hotels, motels or hospitals would be exempt, along with facilities only accessible from a private office. Those that are in county-owned buildings or in a “place of public accommodation” must post signage on their single-use restrooms.
Glass — who identifies as gay and is poised to become the council’s first openly gay council president later this year — said before Tuesday’s vote that the bill was meant to help everybody in the community. It’s a local example of “what has been a national conversation in making sure everyone feels welcome and safe in their communities,” he said.
The legislation takes effect in 91 days, given Elrich signs it, per the county charter.
Some of the bill’s supporters testified that it would help prevent discrimination and violence against the transgender community, and bring Montgomery County in line with other jurisdictions that have passed similar laws, including Washington, D.C., and Philadelphia. Those supporters include Lee Blinder, a nonbinary transgender county resident who serves as executive director of Trans Maryland.
“Being perceived as entering the ‘wrong’ restroom is dangerous,” Blinder testified in March. “It increases the likelihood of violence, and it reinforces the minority stress disproportionately incurred by Maryland’s trans communities.”
Before Tuesday’s vote, the proposed legislation was amended by the council’s Government Operations and Fiscal Policy and Health and Human Services committees — including changing the use of the term “water closet” to “toilet” when referencing a public-single user restroom. The legislation also allows for a picture of a toilet on the signage to indicate restrooms are gender inclusive, instead of the traditional figures depicting a man or woman on those types of restrooms.
Under the bill, the county’s Department of Permitting Services, Department of Health and Human Services officials or another agency designated by the county’s chief administrative officer would enforce the installation of signage. Businesses or county buildings not in compliance would be issued a notice of violation and given 30 days to update their signage. Those that still didn’t comply would face a Class A violation with a $500 fine, then $750 for each repeat offense.
Steve Bohnel can be reached at email@example.com