CHICAGO Advocates celebrated Governor JB Pritzker's signing 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 and the Illinois House 63-41.
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 thank Governor Pritzker for approving 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. Thank you to Gov. Pritzker for signing HB 1286 and to Rep. Stuart and Sen. Villanueva for their leadership."
"Increasing access to public accommodations like restrooms has been a nearly eight-year effort for advocates who are part of the Community Restroom Access Project and our first major initiative," said Kim L. Hunt, executive director of Pride Action Tank, a project of AIDS Foundation Chicago. "We thank the bill sponsors for their hard work, the Illinois General Assembly for passing HB1286 and Gov. Pritzker for signing this important legislation."
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. "Gender-inclusive restrooms in Illinois will support not just the transgender and gender-nonconforming community, but also users who are parents and caregivers who assist children, elderly individuals, and people with disabilities, among others, in restrooms across the state. Through this common-sense initiative, Illinois restrooms will become safer and more inclusive. I applaud Gov. Pritzker for doing the right thing by signing this bill into law."
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.
HB 1286 took effect immediately upon approval by Gov. Pritzker.
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.