The Moscow Human Rights Commission wants city-owned restrooms to be converted to gender-neutral bathrooms where feasible.

Commission Chairman Ken Faunce said the panel recently sent a unanimous recommendation to Mayor Bill Lambert and the City Council to work toward moving the city’s public bathrooms to gender-neutral ones, strongly suggesting they start with the Friendship Square and City Hall restrooms.

A gender-neutral bathroom means anyone, regardless of sex, can use it.

Faunce said gender-neutral restrooms allow caregivers who are a different gender than the individual they are caring for and parents who are a different gender than their small children to enter the bathroom without issues.

“It makes it a lot easier for everybody,” he said.

Faunce said gender-neutral bathrooms also allow transgender and nonbinary — or any gender identity that does not fit into the gender binary of male and female — individuals to be safe when using the restroom. He said it is often unsafe for a transgender person to enter a bathroom of their gender identity because they can be harassed or attacked.

He said a gender-neutral restroom should have a lock on the door and only allow one person or one person with children, for example, inside at a time.

In more complicated cases, Faunce said a gender-neutral bathroom could be added to the men’s and women’s facilities.

He said some of the modifications would be as simple and low cost as signage and installing a lock on a door.

City Supervisor Gary Riedner said the city has not taken any action on gender-neutral restrooms, but he intends to speak with facilities staff to determine what the bathrooms would entail so he can provide the City Council complete information.

He said there is no city policy regarding gender-neutral bathrooms and bathroom designs, but that Americans with Disabilities Act accessibility and public safety are items that need to be considered.

Councilor Sandra Kelly said she strongly supports gender-neutral bathrooms in Moscow as long as they are legal, safe and feasible from a financial standpoint. For example, she said she would not want needed toilets removed from the Friendship Square bathrooms to conform with potential gender-neutral restroom standards.

Kelly said future city restrooms should be gender-neutral.

“Absolutely in the future, I hope that we can go gender-neutral bathrooms,” she said. “To me, it’s just smart.”

Faunce said gender-neutral restrooms have been in the back of commission members’ minds for a while, but a recruitment video posted online by Moscow’s New Saint Andrews College earlier this summer prompted the commission to take action.

The video features a man and woman walking into separate bathrooms marked by their respective genders. The doors close, a flush can be heard and the video finishes with a message: “We’re not science majors, but we know science even better than the Supreme Court. Accepting students who know the difference, in person, this fall.”

Faunce said he hopes the City Council approves gender-neutral restrooms as soon as possible and that the city implements them as quickly as budgets allow.

“We pride ourselves in Moscow on being an inclusive and welcoming community to everyone, but there are some things that aren’t very inclusive or welcoming and then it can be used by those who discriminate or promote hate as ammunition, and so we want to get rid of that, too,” Faunce said.

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