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De Blasio mandates restroom access for transgender people

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio gives a

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio gives a pen to Council member Rosie Mendez, after signing an executive order requiring city facilities to provide bathroom access to people consistent with gender identity. The signing took place on Monday, March 7, 2016, at the Chelsea Recreation Center. Credit: Yeong-Ung Yang

Transgender people must be granted access to city-run bathrooms and locker rooms consistent with their gender identity under an executive order signed Monday by Mayor Bill de Blasio.

“Having a broad policy is one thing, but making sure it sticks is another one,” de Blasio said at a news conference at Manhattan’s Chelsea Recreation Center.

The order, which takes effect immediately, ensures “all of the folks who work in city government understand how important it is to respect people’s rights and not put them in very degrading and humiliating circumstances,” de Blasio said.

For example, people must be permitted to use the women’s bathroom if they identify as female without being asked to show ID or medical documentation.

The measure gives teeth to a 2002 amendment to the city’s Human Rights Law that made gender identity a protected class. It covers thousands of single-sex facilities in city agency offices, public parks, playgrounds and other properties, officials said.

The city is home to about 25,000 transgender and gender-nonconforming residents, officials said.

Sean Coleman, executive director of Destination Tomorrow, which creates programs of LGBT youth, applauded the executive order as “someone who knows firsthand the anxieties associated with something as simple as using the public restroom.”

Under the city Human Rights Law, it is currently an “unlawful discriminatory practice” for private businesses to deny “public accommodations” to someone based on a variety of factors, including gender.

Counsel to the mayor Maya Wiley said there is already a chancellor’s rule in place enforcing the policy in the city Department of Education, and the administration has not seen major pushback. It “should give parents and students a lot of confidence that this is actually going to promote human rights and dignity, not problems and turmoil,” she said.

De Blasio urged that people who experience discrimination to file a complaint with the city’s 311 government services hotline.

“Somehow, hate is making a comeback,” the Democratic mayor added, referencing what he has for months denounced as attacks on immigrants, women and other segments of the American population by Republican presidential candidates.

“New York values are needed more now than ever,” de Blasio said, a nod to Texas Sen. Ted Cruz’s criticism of the city residents’ liberal mindset. “We think an attack on one is an attack on the rest of us.”


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