Vermont passes gender-neutral bathroom bill

Vermont passes gender-neutral bathroom bill

(CNN) – Vermont lawmakers have passed a bill that will require all single-user bathrooms in public buildings or places of public accommodation to be marked as gender-neutral.

Gov. Phil Scott signed H.333 on Friday. It was introduced in the Vermont General Assembly in February 2017.

The bill passed with a large majority in the House in April 2017, and then took a year to reach the Senate, where it passed unanimously.

“Two years ago, when I was running for governor, I was asked in a debate whether I would support gender-neutral bathrooms in public places or not,” Scott, a Republican, said at the bill-signing ceremony at the Vermont Statehouse in Montpelier. “I responded with a one-word answer, a simple yes. Because to me it was just that simple. Why wouldn’t we do that? And now two years later I am honored to be able to sign that legislation into law today.”

According to the bill, “a single-user toilet may be identified by a sign, provided that the sign marks the facility as a restroom and does not indicate any specific gender.”

Scott said, “This is especially important for kids in school who face anxiety and bullying over something as simple as using the restroom. Treating others in this way is not who we are as Vermonters, and I hope the signing of this bill will send a powerful message that that’s not the way we act.

“Vermont has a well-earned reputation for embracing equality and being inclusive,” he added.

In February 2017, the Trump administration withdrew Obama-era protections for transgender students in public schools that let them use bathrooms and facilities corresponding with their gender identity.

In May 2016, the departments of Education and Justice had issued joint guidance directing schools to let transgender students use facilities that corresponded with their gender identity. The “Dear Colleague” letter, addressed to school districts and colleges that receive federal funding, was based on the Obama administration’s interpretation of Title IX, the federal law that bans sex discrimination in schools, to include gender identity.

Reaction was swift and divisive, culminating in the Trump administration’s first “Dear Colleague” letter rescinding the guidance without offering a replacement. Issued jointly by the departments of Education and Justice, the letter did not take a position on the underlying question of whether Title IX protects gender identity. The departments withdrew the guidance “in order to further and more completely consider the legal issues involved,” the letter said.

State Rep. Bill Lippert Jr., one of the co-sponsors of the Vermont bill, said, “In the face of the kind of hysteria that has been generated around transgender restrooms in other states, this makes commons sense. Because it really makes a difference for transgender people who want to use a bathroom where they feel safe. It is satisfying to take the next step forward.”

In a statement, Vermont House Speaker Mitzi Johnson said, “Too many states are passing ‘bathroom bills’ that move in the wrong direction, discriminating against LGBTQIA individuals and forcing schoolchildren to use the restroom that corresponds with their gender at birth, not their chosen gender identity. In a time where LBGTQIA rights are being rolled back on the federal level, when the Trump administration isn’t protecting children, it is our duty to step in.”

The law will go into effect on July 1. It does not apply to bathrooms with more than one toilet.

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