Transgender People Have Bathroom Access Rights In Chicago

By Stephen Gossett in News on Jun 22, 2016 8:48PM

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Flickr / User Dan Perry

Transgender people are allowed to access the bathroom that matches their gender identity, Chicago's City Council affirmed Wednesday.

The council has passed an amendment to the Chicago Human Rights Ordinance that once required patrons to show a government-issued ID upon request to access public accommodations that are "private in nature," but will not anymore. The vote passed the Council 45-5. Chicago had already include gender identity as a protected class in the HRO, but there was a loophole in the ordinance pertaining to bathroom usage.

Chicago-born writer-director Lilly Wachowski (The Matrix) testified in favor of the change Wednesday. She came out as transgender last March to preempt a tabloid outing.

Wachowski told the council that she is "unmistakably transgender," as a 6'4" woman with a deep voice, and has faced discrimination from a woman who was upset at her for using a department store changing room, according to the Sun-Times.

The amendment encountered some of the usual misplaced hand-wringing associated with this issue when it appeared before the Committee on Human Relations earlier in June, namely from Ald. Nick Sposato.

The amendment was greeted with much enthusiasm from local LGBTQ organizations Wednesday.

"As other states try to erase transgender people from public life, let’s recognize that this ordinance is about more than public accommodations. In the wake of the violence against LGBT people in Orlando, it is about standing up for the dignity of all Chicagoans and ensuring our city remains a welcoming and affirming place,” Brian C. Johnson, CEO of Equality Illinois, said in a statement.

"We applaud the City Council's action today," Kim L. Hunt, executive director of the Pride Action Tank, said in a press release. "Removing the discriminatory language towards transgender people not only expands access to spaces like bathrooms, but it also helps ensure that people are treated with dignity and respect."

The vote arrives just over a week after the massacre at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida, and roughly three months since North Carolina set the bar for transgender bathroom-access discrimination, when the state passed House Bill 2.

This post has been amended: House Bill 2 was passed by the North Carolina state legislature, not the Charlotte City Council, as previously stated.