NEW YORK CITY (BP) — At the end of 2015, two human rights commissions — in New York City and Washington state — enacted new rules that could be precedent-setting for the gender battle across the nation, including giving people the right to use whichever locker rooms and bathrooms they choose.
The New York City Commission on Human Rights issued guidelines Dec. 21 to clarify what “constitutes gender identity and gender-expression discrimination” under the city’s 2002 Human Rights Law. The new policy addresses discrimination in the areas of employment, public accommodation and housing.
The guidelines offer several definitions that categorize people according to their self-defined sexual identity, including transgender, gender nonconforming and intersex.
The rules list examples of what the commission considers discriminatory such as repeated failure to use an individual’s preferred name or pronoun.
Employers also are forbidden from requiring different male and female dress codes and grooming standards. Companies with male and female uniforms must allow workers to pick which uniform they wear. In addition, companies’ health care benefits must now cover “transgender care” the commission considers “medically necessary” and “life-saving” such as hormone-replacement therapy, voice training and surgery.
Finally, because requiring proof of transgender status is illegal, the rules effectively authorize anyone to utilize any single-sex program or facility of his or her choice, from battered women’s shelters to public locker rooms.
Meanwhile, as of Dec. 26, a new rule created by the Washington State Human Rights Commission requires buildings open to the public to allow transgender people to use restrooms and locker rooms of the gender with which they identify.
In both Washington and New York City, concerns abound over bathroom safety and privacy in wake of the transgender policies enacted last month by unelected officials.
In Washington, lawmakers are already drafting bills to counter the new rules, accusing the state of overstepping its authority when it circumvented the legislature on such a major policy change.