SPRINGFIELD – The Illinois Senate passed HB 1286 to allow gender-inclusive multi-occupancy restrooms on Thursday, May 18. The House passed it on Friday, May 19.
The Senate added an amendment requiring that gender-neutral multiple-occupancy restroom include floor to ceiling stall dividers and no urinals. It went back to the Illinois House of Representatives for a concurrence vote.
The bill passed the Senate 35-20. The bill does not require businesses to have gender-neutral multiuser bathrooms, but sets requirements for those who do. The House voted 63-41 to pass it.
While the bill passed the Senate easily, there was debate over the bill. Republican senators voiced their opposition to it before the vote.
Some, like Jil Tracy (R-Quincy) and Terri Bryant (R- Murphysboro) were concerned about sanitary issues because men wouldn’t lift the seat. Tracy and others also brought up concerns about sexual assault, despite the Illinois Coalition Against Sexual Assault supporting it. One senator said there would be violence if the bill passed.
“Under this, I can’t see what the floor to ceiling things,” said Neil Anderson (R-Moline). [My daughter] won’t be able to see who’s in there. I won’t be able to see who’s in there. I’m telling you right now, if a guy walks in there, I’m gonna beat the living piss out of them. So this is gonna cause violence. And it’s gonna cause violence from dads like me.”
House sponsor State Rep. Katie Stuart (D-Edwardsville) had to cancel an event because of threats over the bill.
Andrew Chesney (R-Freeport), who got national notoriety for going off about furries over a health insurance bill, called the bill sexist because it removed urinals and that nobody wanted the bill, comparing it to “a really bad Bud Light commercial.”
The Bud Light comment seemed to be a reference to the controversy after the beer company did a one-time spot with transgender TikToker Dylan Mulvaney. The right threatened to boycott the brand after the social media spot. That wasn’t lost on Senate sponsor Celina Villanueva (D-Chicago).
Mike Simmons (D-Chicago), the only out gay state senator, took issue with the threat of violence.
“There is no reason for anybody in this chamber to threaten violence if we pass this legislation,” he said. “Living in an era where we have seen people exacting violence on public officials and in centers of government, I take personal offense to anybody who would say that if we pass a piece of legislation, that you would go out and beat somebody up.”
Simmons called for Anderson’s comments to be struck from the record. He also said that his own constituents have actually asked him to support the bill.
Villanueva said it was a pro-family bill that would make it easier for families in public. “Why? Because it won’t make it so awkward of you going into the ladies room or me going into the men’s room. But yeah, we want to misconstrue everything because again, at the end of the day the reality is whether you want to admit it or not, dogwhistles galore.”
On Twitter, Simmons also called out the dogwhistles.
“I refuse to accept dog-whistling against LGBTQ+ communities and today’s floor debate on gender neutral restrooms legislation was no exception,” he tweeted. “I was proud to speak these passionate words today in defense of my communities as an out and unapologetically proud LGBTQ+ lawmaker.”
“Once again Illinois is a leader in the quest for inclusive public accommodations for all,” said Kim L. Hunt, executive director of Pride Action Tank (PAT), a project of AIDS Foundation Chicago (AFC). “PAT and AFC thank the Illinois House for passing HB1286, Rep. Stuart and Sen. Villanueva for their unwavering leadership and the many advocates who over the years created a path to this victory.”
“By passing this legislation, we are ensuring that people of the LGBTQ community have a comfortable and safe space to use the restroom like everyone else in the state,” said Villanueva. “This bill is about inclusivity – for not just the LGBTQ community, but for people with disabilities, older adults and families with young children.”
“We applaud the Illinois General Assembly for passing this bill to cut red-tape and let businesses serve their customers as they see fit,” said Equality Illinois CEO Brian C. Johnson. “By reducing these barriers, this legislation will support my family and other families. In fact, HB 1286 would benefit broad demographics in our state, including parents and guardians who accompany their child into a restroom; caregivers, spouses, family members, or friends who assist another person in a restroom; and trans and gender-diverse folks.”
According to the US Trans Survey in 2015, 58% of trans respondents in Illinois avoided using a public restroom because they were afraid of confrontations or other problems they might experience.
HB 1286 was supported by the Illinois Retail Merchants Association, the American Institute of Architects-Illinois, the Illinois Pipe Trades Association, the Illinois Coalition Against Sexual Assault, the Illinois Coalition Against Domestic Violence, Chicago Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation, Northwestern University, Equality Illinois, AIDS Foundation Chicago, Pride Action Tank, and the Community Restroom Access Project, among other organizations
Illinois has become a sanctuary as its neighbors have passed increasingly strict legislation hostile to the LGBTQ community.
The bill now goes to Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker (D) to sign.
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