New York City approves bill requiring single-occupant restrooms to be gender-neutral

The New York City Coucil approved this week a bill that requires single-occupant restrooms to be gender-neutral.

A gender-neutral bathroom is seen at the University of California, Irvine in Irvine, California September 30, 2014. | Reuters/Lucy Nicholson

"This is an easy way to create a welcoming environment for transgender or gender-nonconforming people," said Councilman Daniel Dromm, a Queens Democrat and a sponsor of the legislation, as quoted by The Wall Street Journal.

According the report, the bill, which received a 47-2 vote, mandates that all single-occupant restrooms remove signs specifying a gender and replace them with one that would not be gender specific. This would let both men, women, transgenders, and those who do not identify with any gender to use an available single-occupancy restroom rather than wait in line at a gender-specific one. It would also help disabled people with caretakers, as in the case of a woman with Alzheimers whose husband cannot decide which restroom he should take her to.

Should Mayor Bill de Blasio sign the bill, businesses in all five boroughs will be required to put up the new sign -- the wording of which will be determined through a rule-making process -- by Jan. 1, 2017. But while some businesses have no issue with gender-neutral restrooms, this new bill is not viewed as a positive element for the business climate in the city.

"While most employers would be fine on a gender-neutral approach to their bathrooms, having the City Council add this to dozens of other interventions in the last three years has a cumulative negative impact on the perceived business climate in New York," said Kathryn Wylde, president of the business group Partnership for New York City.

NYC transgender rights ad | New York City

De Blasio, who is expected to sign the bill, signed an executive order in March that requires city agencies to let people use restrooms consistent with their gender identities. This June, he also launched an ad campaign on transgender rights.

"Every New Yorker deserves to feel safe and protected in our city, including having equal access to bathrooms," said Monica Klein, a spokeswoman for the mayor.