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Philly Mayor Says Buildings Must Have Gender-Neutral Bathrooms

by Winnie McCroy
EDGE Editor
Thursday Oct 31, 2013
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Brian Sims, a Philadelphia Democrat and the first openly gay man in the Legislature, introduced a marriage equality bill last month
Brian Sims, a Philadelphia Democrat and the first openly gay man in the Legislature, introduced a marriage equality bill last month  (Source:Courtesy Brian Sims)

Per a new law passed in Philadelphia on Oct. 24, all new or renovated city-owned buildings must now include gender-neutral bathrooms. Mayor Michael Nutter said he hoped that his quest to provide equal rights for LGBTs would making it "the most LGBT-friendly" city in the world.

NBC10 Philadelphia WCAU reports Mayor Nutter said that the comprehensive legislation requires that all new or renovated city-owned buildings must include not only men’s and women’s restrooms, but also gender-neutral bathrooms, for transgender individuals who are often harassed when using traditional bathrooms.

"It can be an awkward and embarrassing situation" for anyone who may "feel more like a woman, but can’t use the women’s room," Councilman Jim Kenney, the bill’s sponsor, told the local NBC affiliate.

Gay rights advocates championed the legislation, which makes The City of Brotherly Love the first in the U.S. to offer tax credits to companies that extend the same health care coverage to LGBT employees’ domestic partners as to heterosexual spouses and their children. It also extending medical and life decision-making rights to partners, and revises city forms and websites to provide options for same-sex couples and transgender people.

The legislation also makes Philadelphia the first city to offer businesses tax credits as a way to encourage providing transgender-specific health benefits. In addition, the legislation adds transgender individuals to the city’s anti-discrimination law.

"My goal is for Philadelphia to be one of, if not the most, LGBT-friendly cities in the world and a leader on equality issues," Nutter told NBC. But the lack of gay marriage or civil unions, and a statewide law defining marriage as between a man and woman only hamper that distinction. Still, the city has been praised for their legislative efforts.

"This is a city that is truly respecting all its citizens," said state Rep. Brian Sims, a Philadelphia Democrat and the first openly gay candidate to be elected to the Legislature. "It is because of that respect that we are indeed a first-class city, and we will continue to shine."

Sims introduced a marriage equality bill last month. In addition, a federal lawsuit is pending that challenges Pennsylvania’s same-sex marriage ban, and Attorney General Kathleen Kane has said she won’t defend a law she finds "wholly unconstitutional."

Read EDGE’s recent interview with Sims here.

Winnie McCroy is the Women on the EDGE Editor, HIV/Health Editor, and Assistant Entertainment Editor for EDGE Media Network, handling all women’s news, HIV health stories and theater reviews throughout the U.S. She has contributed to other publications, including The Village Voice, Gay City News, Chelsea Now and The Advocate, and lives in Brooklyn, New York, where she writes about local restaurants in her food blog, http://brooklyniscookin.blogspot.com/

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