Boston Mayor establishes gender-neutral restrooms in City Hall

by Vanessa Rodriguez, |
Boston Mayor Martin Walsh signed an executive order June 11 that immediately established gender-neutral restrooms outside the Mayor's Office and City Council Chamber. | City of Boston Facebook

BOSTON (Christian Examiner) -- Gender-neutral restrooms inside Boston's City Hall will now exist alongside traditional gender-segregated ones that for now remain throughout the building.

Boston Mayor Martin Walsh signed an executive order June 11 that established two single-stall restrooms outside his office and city council chamber located on the fifth floor of the City Hall building, according to a release from the Mayor's Press Office. 

It is unclear, however, if the move is the first step in converting all pubic restrooms in the building or if traditional restrooms will remain in place for non-transsexual visitors for the long term. As of Thursday, new signs outside the bathrooms indicated they were open to everyone "regardless of gender identity or expression," AP reported.

Walsh called the action a "historic moment" in an "inclusive city," and stated in the release that the change would "foster a safe and welcoming environment for employees and visitors."

The stated purpose of the gender-neutral facilities was to "benefit a variety of individuals who are not comfortable when accessing gender-specific bathrooms." By providing such access the order sought to "reduce or eliminate this negative experience."

Although Walsh's press office claimed the fifth-floor restrooms also served to benefit disabled individuals, people who require personal attendants and parents or guardians with children of a different gender, special regard was expressed for members of the transgender community.

"The Office of Neighborhood Services will continue to engage and support members of the LGBT, disability and gender-nonconforming communities by ensuring that they are aware of the gender neutral restrooms," the release stated. It also included various statements of support from groups like Boston Pride and the Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition.

Jessica Doonan, a representative from the Mayor's Commission for persons with Disabilities lauded Walsh's action that will help people with disabilities. However, Doonan's statement again made special regard for the LGBT community.

"As a staff member in the Mayor's Commission for Persons with Disabilities and a member of the LGBT community the creation of these restrooms allows for friends, family, colleagues, and allies to feel comfortable visiting City Hall and participating in City government," Doonan said.

Boston is among the first cities in New England to designate gender-neutral restrooms in their city halls, according to the mayor.

The same day Walsh signed the City Hall executive order, Attorney General Maura Healey announced a new policy intended to protect transgender and gender non-conforming individuals working with or for the AG office, AP reported.

In addition to providing bathroom access by perceived gender identity, that policy also prohibits employees of the Attorney General's Office from discriminating against anyone on the basis of his or her gender identity and does not allow employees to request information to establish or confirm someone's gender.

Across the nation, "bathroom bills" have recently sprouted in numerous cities proposing to give transsexuals the right to use all public restrooms based on their self-identified gender, even if it conflicted with their biological sex.

Earlier this year public protest in Houston forced the city's openly gay mayor to withdraw similar provisions in Houston's controversial human rights ordinance.