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Chicago Bathroom Bill Kills ID Requirement, Embraces Trans Community

By Ted Cox | June 22, 2016 2:48pm
 The City Council granted open bathroom access Wednesday to meet the demands of the LGBT community.
The City Council granted open bathroom access Wednesday to meet the demands of the LGBT community.
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CITY HALL — You won't get carded if you want to use a bathroom in Chicago. 

That's the effect of an ordinance passed by the City Council Wednesday granting open bathroom access as the country remains embroiled in a debate over where trans citizens should urinate.

"We're not afraid to fight for the rights of the LGBT community," said Ald. Deb Mell (33rd).

"As a city we will not discriminate against our trans sisters and brothers," added Ald. Carlos Ramirez-Rosa (35th), like Mell a member of the Council's LGBT Caucus, which sponsored the measure alongside Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

Emanuel said Wednesday it was an especially powerful statement in the wake of the recent massacre in Orlando, Fla.

Mell argued against critics who she said tacitly endorsed "discrimination, fear mongering and intolerance."

Even so, five aldermen asked to be recorded as voting against the bathroom bill: Patrick Daley Thompson (11th), Willie Cochran (20th), David Moore (17th), Nicholas Sposato (38th) and Anthony Napolitano (41st). 

Human Relations Commissioner Mona Noriega had previously testified that "it's no big deal," adding, "We allow people to use the bathroom they want to use."

When the measure passed the Human Relations Committee, Sposato questioned "the knucklehead effect" of high-schoolers claiming to "identify" as the opposite sex in order to gain access to bathrooms and locker rooms. Others worried about it providing entry to sexual predators. Yet there's been no documented evidence of things like that happening in places that already embrace trans-friendly bathrooms. 

Noriega and others testified that the new measure had no effect on existing laws on sexual assault and abuse.

The latest reform was prompted by an interesting twist in civil rights, after North Carolina recently passed a law demanding that anyone using a restroom be prepared to show government identification to gain access. Activists including writer and actress Jen Richards praised Chicago for being "one of the better cities to be in for trans people."

Lambda Legal also praised the city in a news release. 

“Today’s vote sends a powerful message of support and respect for transgender and gender nonconforming people in the City of Chicago," Lambda Legal Counsel Christopher Clark said in a statement. "That the City of Chicago took this step at a time when many states and cities have done the exact opposite, says a great deal about our city and its values."

Yet the latest changes in Chicago's Human Rights Ordinance, in 2003, also mandated ID checks. Emanuel granted earlier this year that ordinance was "ahead of its time," but had what is now recognized as "discrimination in it."

Thus, Emanuel and the LGBT Caucus moved to drop the requirement for an ID to use a bathroom, locker room or changing room, and the full Council approved it Wednesday.

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