Firm Supports National Center for Transgender Equality on Gender-Neutral Public Bathroom Design

January 31, 2019

Partner James P. Colgate, in Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner’s New York office, worked closely with the National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE) on a pro bono basis to develop and pass amendments to the International Building and Plumbing Codes. Coordinated with the help of other LGBT organizations, Stalled! and the American Institute of Architects (AIA), the changes aim to increase equity and efficiency in public bathroom design.

The proposals were approved earlier this month by the International Code Council (ICC). The first of these will require signage on all single-user bathrooms to indicate that they are open to all users. The second will allow gender-neutral, multistall bathroom designs, in which each toilet is in a private compartment but with shared sink areas.

These updates are intended to improve restroom accessibility for transgender and gender-nonconforming individuals, people with disabilities and their caregivers, and families with small children – or anyone who has ever waited in line while another restroom sat empty. Transgender people frequently face harassment in bathrooms separated by gender, with one in 10 respondents in the 2015 US Transgender Survey being denied use of a public restroom because of their gender identity or expression.

The standards in the International Building Code are used to establish federal, state and municipal rules governing the safe and adequate construction of all buildings, both public and private. The current ICC Codes are used as the basis for such laws in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. These new changes will be published in the 2021 edition of the ICC Codes and are expected to be adopted by state and local governments on a rolling basis thereafter.

Mara Keisling, executive director of NCTE, applauded the new regulations: “Separating single-use restrooms by gender has never made sense for transgender people or anyone else. These new rules not only preserve the privacy and dignity of all they make our public spaces more accessible, safe, and equitable.”

The National Center for Transgender Equality advocates to change policies and society to increase understanding and acceptance of transgender people. Visit the NCTE site for more information on the project to update restroom building codes.