The Legality of Using Gendered Public Toilets in Colorado
How many times have you used a public toilet opposed to the gender you identify with? Perhaps the toilet in one of the bathrooms was broken at the neighborhood pub, or the queue for one bathroom was much longer than the other.
While there has been a lot of debate (and therefore policy) around the right of transgender people to use the gender-appropriate toilet they identify with, the legality of crossing gender boundaries is more murky. .
Last month, an 86-year-old cisgender woman graduated from a Colorado bar outside Denver for using a single-cabin men’s restroom. She says she waited for the women’s restroom for five to ten minutes at the bar, watching several men use the men’s restroom during this time. Eventually she decided to use the men, asking her male friend to watch outside. By the time she stepped out, she and her friends were told they were being kicked out of the bar because she had chosen to use the men’s restroom, which went against bar policy. In fact, the bar staff allegedly told him that it was illegal in Colorado to use the bathroom of the opposite sex.
So, what gives?
First, state law overwhelmingly supports transgender people using public toilets that best match the gender they identify with. Senate Bill 200, adopted in 2008, extended protections against discrimination to people using public toilets, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity. The Colorado Civil Rights Commission (CCRC), a bipartite advisory board part of the Colorado Civil Rights Division (CCRD) of Colorado Department of Regulators (DORA), issued guidelines affirming that individuals should be allowed to use sex-separated facilities that best correspond to the gender they identify with. In addition to Colorado law and code, a 2013 state court case also helped a six-year-old transgender student use the school toilet in Fountain, Colorado that matched her gender identity. The message is clear: preventing genderqueer people from their favorite bathroom is discrimination.
But the question remains: what if you wanted to use a bathroom the opposite of the genre you identify with?
There are laws in the state of Colorado regarding the use of public toilets, then local laws. In Denver, city law actually requires all single-stall public toilets to be unisex, per an ordinance enacted in 2016 requiring all businesses to have gender-neutral signage for single-occupant bathrooms in order not only to support gender people, but also to make the toilet more convenient for everyone. , from parents with children of the opposite sex to people tired of queuing when the other toilet is open. However, the laws in other cities vary widely, and many cities and towns simply adhere to state law.
According to a spokesperson for DORA in a statement to Westword, “Colorado’s anti-discrimination law states that it is not a discriminatory practice” to restrict admission to public accommodation to persons of one sex if such restriction has a good faith connection with goods, services, facilities, privileges, benefits, or lodging of such public accommodation. ‘ CRS Section 24-34-601 (3). Colorado Civil Rights Commission Rules and Regulations * 3 CCR 708-1) Rule 81.9 states that “nothing in the Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act prohibits segregation of facilities on the basis of sex. All covered entities must allow individuals to use gender-separated facilities that are compatible with their gender identity. in the event of undressing in the presence of other persons, covered entities must make reasonable accommodations to allow access consistent with an individual’s gender identity. ‘”
In other words, bars as well as restaurants, shops, schools, etc. are all legally allowed to ban you from using the bathroom of the opposite sex and may ask you to leave if you don’t comply.
But is it illegal, as the bar staff noted in this case? What seems like the easiest question to answer is actually the most complicated. According to the spokesperson for DORA, the CCRD is “unable to answer this question because it would require an interpretation of the law which would constitute a legal opinion”.
There appear to be no clear regulations or laws on whether Colorado companies should separate toilets by gender. Presumably, this is not regularly enforced if it is the law, because in Denver and other cities, single-stall toilets are not separated. This is also true for some multi-stall toilets in Denver. In gay nightlife hot spots such as Tracks and Blush & Blu, the multi-stall toilets are permitted for use by anyone, regardless of gender.
Yet the experience that a woman has recently had serves as a warning to everyone. No matter how often you frequent an establishment or how easily you think management can be, it’s not safe to assume. If you have to use the toilet opposite to the gender you identify for for some reason, ask management first, otherwise risk a quick withdrawal from your favorite bar.