Two Democratic lawmakers are calling for the installation of more gender neutral bathrooms in the U.S. Capitol, saying it would make “The People’s House” more welcoming to transgender and gender-nonconforming individuals.
In a letter Wednesday to the House Administration Committee, Reps. Katherine Clark of Massachusetts and Hakeem Jeffries of New York said, “All employees, interns, and visitors should have access to safe and comfortable restrooms.”
They noted that there is currently only one single-use restroom in the House side of the Capitol, located in the basement of the Longworth office building.
Implementing more “will make a visible difference in the lives of transgender and gender non-conforming individuals, as well as other marginalized communities, including people with disabilities, older adults, and parents of small children,” the pair said in their letter to the committee’s chair, Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif.
Their call comes amid a wave of legislation targeting LGBT rights across the country. An NBC News analysis conducted in March found 238 anti-LGBTQ bills had been filed in state legislatures in the first three months of the year, compared to 41 in all of 2018. Political experts and LGBTQ activists say the surge is part of a Republican political strategy to use transgender people as a “wedge issue” to motivate right-wing voters.
In a speech declaring June LGBTQ Pride Month, President Joe Biden called the bills “unconscionable attacks” that have left “families in fear and pain.”
Clark and Jeffries cited a 2015 transgender survey in which 12% of respondents said they’d been harassed, attacked or sexually assaulted in a bathroom within a year, and 59% said they have avoided bathrooms in public, at work, school or other places because they feared confrontations.
“Concern over the lack of appropriate facilities is shared by our staff and visitors who have relayed to us their stories and experiences, including Members of the LGBT Congressional Staff Association,” their letter said.
The lawmakers also noted that the additional private bathrooms would be a benefit to other staffers and visitors, including elderly and disabled people with caregivers as well as parents with kids.
They asked Lofgren to help facilitate “installing additional restroom facilities to better accommodate those who work or seek to work in the House of Representatives.”
Lofgren’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.