Single-stall restrooms in public buildings and businesses in California may soon be open to anyone. The California Assembly, the state legislature's lower house, passed a proposal Monday that would require all one-person restrooms in "any business establishment, place of public accommodation or government agency" to become all-gender facilities, starting next year. Assembly Bill 1732 advanced to the Senate after a 52-18 vote, the Sacramento Bee reported.
“While other states are making it tougher and more political to use the bathroom, today we can make it easier for everyone to use the bathroom by simply changing the sign on the door and allowing anyone to use it,” Assemblyman Phil Ting, D-San Francisco, said in a report by the Los Angeles Times. “Today, let’s take the politics out of bathrooms and bring back common sense.”
Ting was referencing the growing national debate over how states handle who should be allowed to use which restrooms. Though it's been under discussion for years, the issue took the spotlight in March when North Carolina passed HB 2, a law that rolled back protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender employees and blocked transgender residents from using facilities that correspond to their gender identity instead of ther biological sex. Republican Gov. Pat McCrory promoted the legislation supposedly as a way to protect people's privacy and safety, but it was recently rebuked by the White House for supporting what it saw as discriminatory action.
The U.S. Justice Department filed a civil rights lawsuit against North Carolina on Monday — the same day McCrory filed a lawsuit requesting that a judge label the law nondiscriminatory, according to the Charlotte Observer.
McCrory told reporters that the Obama administration was radically reinterpreting the Civil Rights Act by including transgender people as a protected group. U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch, meanwhile, gave a statement saying the issue was "about the dignity and the respect that we accord our fellow citizens and the laws that we as a people and as a country have enacted to protect them," CNN reported.
The North Carolina drama came to a head hours before the California vote, according to the Associated Press. But although the Golden State has historically been a leader in codifying transgender people's rights, the proposal did encounter some resistance. Assemblyman James Gallagher, R-Yuba City, for example, said the law wasn't necessary.
“There’s virtually no one who’s inconvenienced by the status quo," he said, according to the Bee.
If passed, the bill would take effect March 1, 2017.