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Gender-Free Bathroom Bill Now Law, But So Far Not All Businesses Comply

A sign that says RESTROOM in capital letters and then in braille. White text on a black sign.
Screenshot from Vermont Division of Fire Safety, Courtesy

A new state law requires all single-stall bathrooms in Vermont to be labeled as gender neutral, but one state official said many business owners don’t seem to have gotten the news.

Karen Richards, executive director of the Vermont Human Rights Commission, said she’s been paying close attention to bathroom signage in restaurants and other businesses since the law went into effect on July 1.

“And I’m not seeing a lot of compliance or knowledge on the part of businesses about the changes to the law,” Richards said.

More on the law — Read Act 127 here

The law followed a push from transgender rights advocates, who offered testimony at the Statehouse earlier this year about their own experiences trying to use bathrooms designated for the gender with which they identify.

Richards said many of those advocates said they were “harassed for going into whichever one you choose, by somebody who thinks you don’t belong in that restroom.”

“And that’s been the experience of people who are transgender around the state,” Richards said.

Updating bathroom signage to comply with the new law isn’t difficult or expensive, Richards said. And she said she thinks non-compliance is based more on ignorance of the statute than a desire to willfully flout it.

From the Vermont Human Rights Commission — FAQS about Act 127

Responsibility for inspecting for compliance falls to the Division of Fire Safety at the Vermont Department of Public Safety.

A black sign with white text featuring a pictogram of someone in a wheelchair, the words restroom capitalized and then in braille.
Credit Screenshot from Vermont Division of Fire Safety, Courtesy
An example of compliant restroom signage for a single-user restroom, that is handicapped-accessible, under Vermont's Act 127.

Fire Safety Division Executive Director Michael Desrochers said in a written statement that “compliance with this law can be achieved by educating the public and business owners regarding the requirements of the law.”

“Compliance is easy and inexpensive which should reduce the need for enforcement,” Desrochers also said in the written statement.

Both the Human Rights Commission and the Department of Public Safety say businesses should replace existing bathroom signs with a designation that says only “restroom” and also remove the male/female symbols that often appear on single-stall bathrooms.

The Vermont Statehouse is often called the people’s house. I am your eyes and ears there. I keep a close eye on how legislation could affect your life; I also regularly speak to the people who write that legislation.
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