More gender-inclusive bathrooms could be expanding into the broader D.C., Maryland, and Virginia (DMV) area, according to a new bill proposed in Montgomery County.
Bill 4-22, introduced by Councilmember Sidney Katz (D) and Council Vice President Evan Glass (D) on Feb. 11, would require gender-inclusive restrooms in certain places of public accommodation and county-owned buildings, in addition to generally amending existing laws regarding discrimination in public accomodations.
As stated in the memorandum, the bill’s purpose is to increase accessibility regardless of gender identity and to help caregivers or parents of people of a different gender assist them when using a public restroom.
On Mar. 8, the bill passed its first public hearing, where Montgomery county residents testified in support of the implementation.
“It is an awful feeling to know that I cannot access a bathroom during my work day without feeling fear of harassment and embarrassment,” Blake Mihm, who works for the county Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) in HIV and STI prevention, said. “A simple change of signage would open these restrooms to everyone and anyone who needs them, including those in the disability community, who require help in the restroom and people with young children.”
Montgomery County activist Ezra Towne added, “As a person with disabilities that sometimes needs assistance in the bathroom, gendered single occupancy stalls are also stressful for both my spouse and I because we are perceived as differently gendered than one another.”
According to Lee Blinder, executive director of Trans Maryland, a multi-racial, multi-gender community empowering Maryland’s trans community, “Being perceived as entering the ‘wrong’ restroom is dangerous, increasing the likelihood of violence, and reinforces the minority stress disproportionately incurred by Montgomery County’s trans communities.”
If passed, the bill would mandate that existing or newly constructed single-user restrooms in public places and county-owned buildings allow restroom use by individuals of any gender. The bill also requires gender-inclusive signage for those restrooms.”
Glass is the Council’s first openly LGBTQ+ legislator. “We want everyone in Montgomery County to feel welcome here,” he said in a statement. “Members of our trans, nonbinary and disability communities often feel anxious and ignored by the choices of restrooms in commercial spaces. This legislation will help provide ease and comfort to them and everyone.”
The expansion of gender-inclusive bathrooms would service both the LGBTQ+ community and the general public at large. Other parts of the DMV area have already adopted similar policies to expand access to gender-inclusive bathrooms and protect gender identities. D.C. regulated gender-inclusive signage on single-user bathrooms beginning in 2006. In 2019, Baltimore enacted its own mandate of gender-inclusive bathroom mandates. In 2021, Howard County, Maryland followed suit by unanimously passing a similar mandate.
Montgomery County’s Bill 4-22 is now headed to county committees for review, and a final vote will take place in the upcoming months.