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Public Single-Stall Bathrooms In Cincinnati Can No Longer Be Restricted By Gender

Council Member Jan-Michele Lemon Kearney shows an example of signage that meets the new requirements for single-occupancy bathrooms in the city.
City of Cincinnati
Council Member Jan-Michele Lemon Kearney shows an example of signage that meets the new requirements for single-occupancy bathrooms in the city.

Cincinnati City Council voted unanimously Wednesday to require single-occupancy bathrooms in public places to be open to everyone, regardless of gender.

Council Member Jan-Michele Lemon Kearney introduced the measure.

"A lot of people who are transgender don't eat or drink before they go out in public because there's no bathroom to use," she said. "And I mean, that's a that's just a human indignity and it's just ridiculous."

Lemon Kearney says the new rule is easy to follow because all it requires is signage change.

The ordinance applies to all single-occupancy restrooms in public buildings and places open to the public, like restaurants and other businesses. Those bathrooms must now be available for use by anyone regardless of sex, gender, identity, physical or mental capacity, or familial status.

Faith Gingrich-Goetz is co-chair of the Greater Cincinnati Human Rights Campaign Steering Committee. She helped write the legislation.

"This removes a barrier for access," Gingrich-Goetz said. "It creates a safer environment for both binary trans individuals and non-binary trans individuals. It also creates a restroom that actually matches what nonbinary individuals would like."

The ordinance defines the following terms:

  • "Place of public accommodation" shall mean any inn, restaurant, eating house, barbershop, public conveyance by air, land, or water, theater, store, or other place for the sale of merchandise, or any other place of public accommodation or amusement where the accommodation, advantages, facilities, or privileges thereof are available to the public. "Place of public accommodation" does not mean a benevolent corporation or a religious corporation incorporated as such under the laws of Ohio.
  • "Single-occupancy restroom" means a fully enclosed room, with a locking mechanism controlled by the user, containing no more than one sink, one toilet, and one urinal.

The ordinance goes into effect immediately. A violation is a Class C1 Civil Offense, added to a list that includes litter on private property or vacant lots, and grass and weeds higher than allowed on private property. The initial fine for a Class C1 offense is $500, but it can be reduced to $250 if the violation is proven to be corrected.
The ordinance is part of the city's anti-discrimination code rather than building code. A city spokesperson says city attorneys determined the new policy complies with Ohio Building Code, including Section 2901.2, which says: "Single-user toilet facilities and bathing rooms, and family or assisted-use toilet and bathing rooms shall be identified for use by either sex."

Local Government Reporter with a particular focus on Cincinnati; experienced journalist in public radio and television throughout the Midwest. Enthusiastic about: civic engagement, public libraries, and urban planning.