MONTPELIER, Vt. — Vermont is moving ahead with a statewide measure to take gendered signs off single-occupancy public bathrooms, but time is running out to pass the bill during this year’s lawmaking session.
After an identical California law passed last year, nearly a quarter of Vermont’s 150-member House signed on as co-sponsors of the bill. New York is the only other state that is considering a similar legislation this year. A Hawaii bill in the same vein failed last year. Washington, D.C., and many cities and colleges have already enacted similar policy.
In contrast, 13 states were considering laws by late March that limit bathroom access in some way, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Policy experts say the bills are unlikely to pass.
“Trans people have reached a level of publicity and to some degree acceptance on the national scale that is unprecedented,” said Cathryn Oakley, senior legislative attorney at the Human Rights Campaign, a leading LGBTQ rights group.
“But it also has had a very significant pendulum swing in terms of the legislation we’re seeing,” Oakley said.
Capturing Oakley’s attention now is a Texas bill that would that would keep transgender people from using a bathroom that aligns with their gender identity, which has passed the state Senate.
Progressive Rep. Selene Colburn, the lead sponsor of the Vermont bill, said she hasn’t faced opposition, but is not sure if it will pass this year. Several top conservative Vermont lawmakers did not immediately return calls and emails seeking comment on the bill. House and Senate leaders say about three weeks remain in Vermont’s lawmaking session, and neither the full House nor the Senate have yet considered the bill.
In 2016, North Carolina became the only state to successfully pass a law that required people to use the bathroom that matches the sex on their birth certificate and eliminated anti-discrimination protection for LGBTQ people.
After a nationwide backlash, Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper signed a partial repeal measure late last month.
Vermont Rep. Bill Lippert, a Democrat, said during testimony Tuesday that taking gender labels off single-occupancy bathrooms can be a practical, as well as an inclusive, step, referring to less wait time.