Two of the highest-ranking Democrats in Congress have called for gender-neutral bathrooms to be installed in the Capitol building.
Assistant Speaker of the House of Representatives Katherine Clark (D-MA), and House Democratic Caucus Chairman Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) sent a letter to the House Administration Committee Wednesday pushing the Committee to support efforts to install single-occupancy restrooms in the House of Representatives and the office buildings in which Congresspeople and their staff work. Clark and Jeffries said that installing the bathrooms is critical for both tour groups and Capitol staff who identify as transgender.
“All employees, interns, and visitors should have access to safe and comfortable restrooms,” Clark and Jeffries wrote. “For members of the transgender, gender nonconforming and disability communities, that often means the availability of single stall or single-occupancy restrooms. As lawmakers, we can more effectively represent our constituents when our staff and interns reflect the diversity of the American people. However, absent improvements, we in Congress are limiting our ability to hire and retain individuals who belong to these communities. Additionally, following the resuming of the Capitol and House buildings to public tours and meetings – ensuring the American people coming to visit their elected leaders have access to appropriate facilities is critical for living up to our obligations as The People’s House.”
In addition to transgender visitors and staff, installing single-occupancy bathrooms would benefit individuals with disabilities, individuals with caretakers of the opposite sex, and families, in accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act and the International Building Code, the Democratic leaders added.
“While other federal buildings have improved accessibility to single-use restrooms, more work remains to be done in the House of Representatives and the Capitol,” Clark and Jeffries continued. “Currently, there is only one single-use restroom located in the Longworth [Office Building] basement. For individuals working in the Cannon and Rayburn office buildings, they must leave their buildings and, in some cases, walk outside to find a safe and comfortable restroom to use. Implementing single-use restrooms will make a visible difference in the lives of transgender and gender non-conforming individuals, as well as other marginalized communities, including people with disabilities, older adults, and parents of small children.”
The Hill reported that the effort began among Capitol Hill staffers. “The LGBT Congressional Staff Association is proud to stand with Assistant Speaker Clark, Democratic Caucus Chair Jeffries, and Chairwoman Lofgren in calling on Congress to install gender-neutral bathrooms within the Capitol complex,” LGBT Congressional Staff Association President John A. Martin said in a statement in the Democrats’ press release. “[W]e are keenly aware that the existence of these spaces is critical to creating a safe and inclusive environment for all Hill staffers.” Clark and Jeffries also acknowledged concerns raised by the association and visitors in their letter.
The Democrats’ letter comes just days after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) appeared on an episode of drag queen reality show “RuPaul’s Drag Race.” It also comes after the Biden administration made a series of symbolic gestures celebrating Pride Month, or “Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, and Intersex Pride Month,” as the White House declared on May 31.