By PETER HANCOCK
Capitol News Illinois
SPRINGFIELD – The Illinois House narrowly passed a bill Thursday that would allow businesses, universities and other building owners to designate multi-occupancy all-gender bathrooms if they choose to do so.
The bill passed on a vote of 60-40, the bare minimum number of “yes” votes needed for passage in the 118-member House, after the presiding officer held the roll open for several seconds waiting for the 60th vote to be recorded.
State Rep. Katie Stuart, D-Edwardsville, who sponsored the bill, said the language of House Bill 1286 is identical to an earlier bill that passed 63-43 in the House in 2021 but was never taken up in the Senate.
Illinois law already allows for single-occupancy bathrooms to be designated for all genders, but Stuart’s bill would allow an all-gender designation for bathrooms that accommodate two or more people.
The bill sets out standards that all-gender bathrooms would have to meet, such as “inclusive signage” that does not indicate any specific gender; stall dividers with functioning locks controlled by the user; and partitions for each urinal, if urinals are present.
In addition, if such bathrooms are part of a newly constructed building or a building undergoing major renovation, they would have to comply with requirements of the federal Americans with Disabilities Act and the Illinois Accessibility Code. Each toilet stall would have to include a small trash receptacle, and it would have to have at least one vending machine for menstruation supplies and one baby diaper changing station.
The bill also provides that any multi-occupancy restroom could be converted to an all-gender restroom. But if another single-gender multi-occupancy restroom is located adjacent to or near the all-gender restroom, both would have to be designated as all-gender facilities.
The bill passed out of the House Human Services Committee on Feb. 22 on a 6-3 vote after only brief discussion. But just a few days later, Stuart said she was forced to cancel a planned constituent coffee event in Collinsville, “due to violent threats and malicious information being spread by special interest groups about bathroom privacy and safety legislation.”
“Yeah, there was some, I think, deliberately incendiary information being touted, real falsities about what was in the bill that was leading to, you know, frankly, threats and things that I didn’t want to expose my staff and the public to,” Stuart said during an interview Thursday. “So we chose to cancel a public event.”
She said when the 2021 bill passed, there was more debate about it on the floor of the House than there was Thursday, but she did not receive the kinds of personal attacks and threats over it that she received this year.
“I think it’s just the general mood,” she said. “Unfortunately, we’ve gotten to kind of a real ugly place in our politics where people stoke division and fear and hate for political gain. And they’re not ashamed to lie in the process.”
She stressed that the bill does not mandate that any bathroom be designated for all genders, but only allows building owners to do so if they choose.
The bill was just one of hundreds of bills the House has voted on this week as it nears a Friday deadline for most bills to pass out of the House and be sent to the Senate. The Senate has a similar deadline to send its bills to the House by next Friday, March 30.