CHICAGO Advocates are celebrating passage by the Illinois General Assembly of House Bill 1286, legislation that will reduce barriers for businesses serving their communities and customers by allowing for the adoption of gender-neutral multiple-occupancy restrooms by businesses, universities, and building owners who wish to do so.
Sponsored by State Rep. Katie Stuart (D-Edwardsville) and State Sen. Celina Villanueva (D-Chicago), the legislation passed the Illinois Senate 35-20 on Thursday and the Illinois House 63-41 today. The bill now advances to Governor JB Pritzker.
House Bill 1286 leaves decisions to adopt a gender-neutral multiple-occupancy restroom up to business and building owners as they determine how best to serve their communities and customers. For those businesses that adopt the restrooms, the bill establishes strong requirements to ensure safety, privacy, and inclusion.
HB 1286 is necessary because existing law and regulations require that gendered facilities be adopted before a gender-neutral multiple-occupancy restroom can be implemented. Thus, existing provisions prevent smaller businesses with less resources from serving their customers by adopting gender-neutral restrooms. In 2021, the City of Chicago adopted an ordinance similar to HB 1286.
"This bill is a victory for all who support the freedom of businesses to make their own decisions about how to conduct their day-to-day operations," Stuart said. "There's been a lot of confusion due to claims that this bill would force businesses to change their bathrooms. I can't stress enough how false that is. This bill is about removing a prohibition, not about imposing requirements, beyond those which are necessary to set basic standards for those establishments that may choose to make the change. I believe that inclusion matters, and that belief is what's at the heart of this bill."
"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. We appreciate Rep. Stuart and Sen. Villanueva's leadership."
"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."
Justin Ian Sia, a Chicago attorney who wrote the bill in law school, hailed the passage as a historic achievement for diversity and inclusion in Illinois. "We heard from communities across the State who want more gender-inclusive restrooms because they serve a wide range of folks, from trans and gender non-conforming individuals to parents and children. This bill is pro-family, pro-business, and pro-safety, and makes Illinois more inclusive for all of its diverse residents and visitors."
HB 1286 is 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.
About Equality Illinois At Equality Illinois we envision a fair and unified Illinois where everyone is treated equally with dignity and respect and where all people live freely regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity or expression. We work hard to promote legislation to protect the rights of LGBTQ+ individuals; maintain the visibility of LGBTQ+ issues; oppose legislation which seeks to limit the civil rights of the LGBTQ+ community; and expand statewide grassroots support.