On April 11, the Illinois state Senate voted 53-0 in favor of SB 556, otherwise known as the "Equitable Restrooms Act," which would have all single-occupancy restrooms in "places of public accommodation" be labeled as gender-neutral.
On May 21, the state House passed the bill on a 109-5 vote, and on Friday, Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed the legislation into law.
The text of the law reads in part:
(b) This Section applies to any existing or future places of public accommodation or public buildings.
(c) Notwithstanding any other provision of law, every single-occupancy restroom in a place of public accommodation or public building shall be identified as all-gender and designated for use by no more than one person at a time or for family or assisted use. Each single-occupancy restroom shall be outfitted with exterior signage that marks the single-occupancy restroom as a restroom and does not indicate any specific gender.
(d) During any inspection of a place of public accommodation or public building by a health officer or health inspector, the health officer or health inspector may inspect the place of public accommodation or public building to determine whether it complies with this Section.
A "place of public accommodation," according to the Illinois Human Rights Act, includes movie theaters, concert halls, hotels, restaurants, grocery stores, clothing stores, laundromats, etc. Essentially anywhere people might use a restroom, this law will apply when it goes into effect on January 1, 2020.
This legislation differs from the various, and often contentious, attempts in multiple states to allow transgender individuals to use public restrooms designated to the gender with which they identify, as this only applies to single-occupancy restrooms.
According to Equality Illinois:
As a general rule, you can use the restroom consistent with your gender identity. If confronted, you are not obligated to produce identification to prove your gender, and you are protected by public accommodations laws in Illinois.
The Illinois Human Rights Act reads in part: "It is a civil rights violation for any person on the basis of unlawful discrimination to ... deny or refuse to another the full and equal enjoyment of the facilities, goods, and services of any public place of accommodation..."
Social media reaction to the legislation was decidedly flat:
Honestly, gendered single bathrooms never made sense to me. Why do they exist?
*eyeroll* That's exactly how they all would have functioned before this point anyway... but I guess some people need to be told.
Since we don't care who will be using it, why not just call it bathroom?
I mean, this just makes sense honestly. Not for any political virtue signaling reasons, but it's just practical.
It’s unclear at this time whether or not the Illinois definition of "public accommodations" includes churches or religious organizations of varying stripes. That said, it’s unlikely that any individual or group, religious or not, would object to this legislation as it pertains solely to single-occupancy restrooms and not to the more divisive issue of multi-use restrooms.