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Gender neutral bathroom signs in some public spaces could be required if Maryland bill passes

Gender Protections
Toby Talbot/AP
A sign marks the entrance to a gender-neutral restroom at the University of Vermont in Burlington in 2007. If legislation in the Maryland General Assembly becomes law, such gender neutral signage would be required in some public spaces.

Bills in the Maryland General Assembly would make the state No. 6 in the nation to require gender inclusive language for all public bathrooms. It’s the third time the measure has been introduced to lawmakers, but how it would be enforced has evolved with each version.

The bills — introduced in the Senate by Montgomery County Democratic Sen. Cheryl Kagan and in the House by Montgomery County Democratic Del. Jared Solomon — involves all single occupancy public bathrooms in public buildings or places of public accommodation, such as hotels, restaurants, theaters, and retail stores. Signage for those bathrooms would have to be specific to show that all gender identities can use it.

“There are implications for people who have disabilities and have a caretaker of another gender,” Sen. Kagan told the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee during a hearing Jan. 31. “It’s a problem for people who are gender non-conforming or trans and there is a risk or sexual assault or violence. And it’s just something whose time has come.”

This is the third time the bills have been introduced in the Maryland General Assembly, having occurred previously in 2020 and 2022. Neither time did it get out of committee. The enforcement of the signage has evolved from its first introduction. Local governments would do that, but under the 2023 version fines could only be issued to an offending business 30 days after a formal warning is first given.

Five states have already passed similar legislation — California, Vermont, Maine, Illinois, and New Mexico. Several major cities have as well, like Baltimore, which did so in 2019.

During the presentation to lawmakers, precedent for such a law was shared.

Matt Bush spent 14 years in public radio prior to coming to WYPR as news director in October 2022. From 2008 to 2016, he worked at Washington D.C.’s NPR affiliate, WAMU, where he was the station’s Maryland reporter. He covered the Maryland General Assembly for six years (alongside several WYPR reporters in the statehouse radio bullpen) as well as both Montgomery and Prince George’s Counties. @MattBushMD
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