Baltimore County, in Maryland, USA is currently passing legislation to protect the rights of transgender people and prevent them being discriminated against. However, as often happens with complex legislation and public opinion when it comes to legislation that they don’t have the time to analyse, small details of the bill have become a source of contention for much of the population. The bill has become known as “the bathroom bill” because of the effect It would have on public toilets. In the face of the controversy local council members have made public toilet facilities and locker rooms exempt from the measures.
Apparently, in public consultation about the legislation, the fear of women being attacked by men in public toilets was cited as a reason for opposition to the legislation. Proponents of the legislation say that this is scaremongering by those trying to prevent it passing and say that similar laws have not seen any rise in such incidents being reported. They say that the law would add gender identity to existing discrimination laws that cover housing, workplaces and public spaces.
The amendment already has support from the majority of the council members, who want to make toilets, bath houses, dressing rooms, locker rooms and changing rooms exempt from the law. Other amendments on the table include making places of worship exempt from the law and one which allows employers to ensure that their employees dress appropriately for work within the constraints of the gender that they identify with.
More than 60 people attended the council meeting to make their voices heard; such was the depth of feeling on the issue. Supporters of the bill told of people who were fired from their jobs or even physically assaulted because they are transgender. In some cases parents spoke of their own experiences of having children who informed them that they were transgender.
One advocate of the bill showed graphic footage of a transgender woman being attacked when she tried to use a toilet at a local fast food restaurant. Mara Drummond said “I want this image to be in your head when you give people the power to police what bathrooms other people use.”
Opposition to the bill came from those who said that it was against their religion, who believed that it would lead to sexual assault of women in public toilets and that it would unleash a torrent of lawsuits against local business for perceived transgressions of the bill.
Obviously, with the privacy and intimacy of visits to the toilet, this is an issue that people will have an emotive and instinctive reaction to. It may not always be reasoned but it is something that is a closely held belief and inspires a lot of passion. It’s something that will affect every business in Baltimore County when they come to choose cloakroom suites to fit in their new bathrooms, working out if they are going to comply with legislation and making sure they don’t offend any of their patrons.