Boston mayor creates gender-neutral bathrooms at City Hall

AP News
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Posted: Jun 11, 2015 8:00 PM

BOSTON (AP) — Boston Mayor Martin Walsh has signed an executive order creating gender-neutral restrooms inside City Hall.

The two single-stall restrooms are located on the fifth floor of the building outside the mayor's office and city council chamber, and traditional restrooms continue to be available in the building.

A sign posted outside the gender-neutral restroom, appearing in a Boston Globe photo Thursday, says: "This restroom may be used by any person regardless of gender identity or expression."

Boston is among the first cities in New England to institute gender-neutral restrooms in their city halls, the mayor said. He said a range of people aren't comfortable using gender-specific bathrooms and the change will create a welcoming environment for city hall workers and visitors.

The bathrooms with "private, non-gendered" stalls can also help disabled residents who have personal attendants of a different gender and parents with children of a different gender who might experience misunderstanding when using gender-specific bathrooms, he said.

"Today marks a historic moment in Boston," Walsh said in a written statement. "Boston thrives on diversity, and is an inclusive city."

Also Thursday, Attorney General Maura Healey announced a new policy she said will protect transgender and gender non-conforming people working for or interacting with her office.

The policy allows any member of the public visiting her office to use the bathroom that corresponds with their gender identity, regardless of their assigned birth sex. The policy also bars any employee of the Attorney General's Office from discriminating against or treating anyone differently on the basis of his or her gender identity.

Healey said she's also requiring that anyone working, volunteering or visiting her office "shall be referred to by the name, gender designation, and pronoun preferred by the individual, regardless of the individual's assigned birth sex."

She said under the rules workers at her office are also barred from asking for "documentation or other information to establish or verify an individual's gender identity."

Former Gov. Deval Patrick signed a bill in 2011 protecting transgender people from discrimination in the workplace and housing by adding "gender identity and expression" to the state's civil rights laws.

Healey said her new policy is an attempt to address the fact that law signed by Patrick did not extend the state's existing public accommodations protections to transgender people — something Healey supports.

"This policy will make those obligations clear. I hope businesses across the state will follow suit, and my office is willing to be a resource for them," Healey said in a statement. "This is about creating a culture in our office where everyone is treated equally."

An aide to Republican Gov. Charlie Baker has said he backs the law signed by Patrick but doesn't support changes to the state's public accommodations law.