(The Center Square) – Lawmakers continue crafting a measure to allow public restrooms in Illinois to be converted to gender neutral multi-occupancy facilities.
The House narrowly passed House Bill 1286 in March. The measure allows for public restrooms to be converted to gender neutral as long as there are stall dividers with a locking mechanism, vending devices for menstruation supplies and a small trash receptacle in each toilet stall.
The Senate amended the bill to require stalls be fully enclosed in such facilities and that urinals are removed.
State Sen. Neil Anderson, R-Andalusia, asked bill sponsor state Sen. Celina Villanueva, D-Chicago, about one particular part of the bill.
“Can you explain why there’s no urinals,” Anderson asked during a committee hearing.
“So we took into consideration the concerns of several members who voiced that concern in terms of again, people who walk into a restroom and might be offended by a urinal so what we are trying to do is to make sure that we are addressing those concerns,” Villanueva said. “Urinals are just as good as a toilet.”
“Are they going to be offended if I leave the toilet seat up,” Anderson asked.
“I mean, I might be offended,” Villanueva said.
Opponents include David Curtin with the Illinois Family Institute, who raised concerns about sanitary issues and safety.
“As all women tell me, the seat often gets splashed by a man if he doesn’t bother to raise the seat beforehand,” Curtin told the Senate committee. “It increases fear for women because with the ceiling to floor stalls, if a man waits in a stall for a woman and overpowers her in the blink of an eye he can tape her mouth and no one knows she’s being assaulted.”
Senate President Don Harmon, D-Oak Park, said the bill is improved from what passed over from the House and downplayed concerns from opponents.
“If you have a hard time washing your hands in front of someone of the other gender, we have other problems to solve,” Harmon said.
Others raised concerns about how such a move could impact large occupancy venues like concert halls or sports stadiums.
The amended measure passed in the Senate Thursday after spirited debate. The House would need to concur. Legislators return Friday.