ALBANY - A new proposal at the state Capitol would require all single-occupant bathrooms in New York to become gender-neutral, a move the bill's sponsor says is meant to help protect transgender individuals from discrimination.
If approved, restaurants, bars, state-owned buildings and other public spaces would be required to post signage at their single-occupant restrooms signaling that they're open to everyone, regardless of gender.
Traditional men's and women's room signs would have to be replaced on restrooms that are for only one person.
The bill would not apply to multi-person bathrooms.
The proposal, introduced last week, is aimed at protecting transgender individuals from discrimination, according to Assemblyman Daniel O'Donnell, D-Manhattan.
The measure, however, is likely to face opposition from social conservatives who have sparred with the LGBT community over gender-based restrictions on bathroom use, including a controversial North Carolina law approved last year.
"Restricting access to single-occupancy facilities based on gender creates controversy where there should be none," O'Donnell said in a statement Monday.
"Aside from the toilet seat being left up now and again, the purpose of the restroom remains the same."
O'Donnell said his bill is in response to North Carolina's House Bill 2, which restricts individuals to using restrooms corresponding with the gender on their birth certificate.
California and New York City approved similar unisex-bathroom measures last year.
Mike Long, the longtime chair of the state Conservative Party, said O'Donnell's bill is unnecessary and would impose a "mandate" on private business owners.
There's nothing stopping a woman from using a single-occupant men's room -- or vice versa -- if there's a line at the women's room, he said.
"This is another mandate that is so ridiculous and foolish," Long said.
Scott Wexler, executive director of the state Restaurant and Tavern Association, said the organization has not yet taken a position on the bill.
O'Donnell has introduced the bill in the Democrat-dominated Assembly, but it has not yet made it to the Republican-led Senate.
The assemblyman's office said the bill is soon to pick up a Republican sponsor: Sen. Andrew Lanza of Staten Island.
But Nancy Probst, a spokeswoman for Lanza, said the senator is "actually still reviewing the bill."
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