House approves gender-neutral bathroom bill

A sign outside the restroom at the Starbucks on West San Francisco Street indicates anyone is welcome to use the single-stall facility. Luis Sánchez Saturno/New Mexican file photo

The House of Representatives voted 54-12 to approve a measure that would require New Mexico businesses and public facilities that have single-occupancy restrooms to mark them as gender neutral, available to any person regardless of gender identity or sex.

State Rep. Angelica Rubio, D-Las Cruces, who introduced House Bill 388, said following the vote that gender-neutral restrooms make people who identify as transgender or nonbinary “feel safe.”

The city of Santa Fe enacted a similar requirement in 2015.

Rubio’s bill passed without much fanfare or controversy, and she accepted an amendment from Rep. Rod Montoya, R-Farmington, that makes it clear that these businesses are not expected to build new restroom facilities.

The bill does not include an appropriation. A fiscal impact report says businesses affected by the bill would be responsible for paying for any new signage.

Rep. Phelps Anderson, R-Roswell, asked Rubio what the cost of signage would be for such businesses.

Rubio said based on a study she had done, it would cost Blake’s Lotaburger about $750 to make signs for its roughly 90 New Mexico restaurants.

“That seems like a lot [to spend],” Anderson said.

“I have rarely ever seen a proposed bill [like this] in which I received not one comment, a letter, an email, a postcard supporting this idea,” he said. “It makes me quite nervous about whether or not New Mexicans really need the passage of this bill or not.”

Rep. Jackey Chatfield, R-Mosquero, amused the assembly by telling of a restaurant he frequents in the northeast portion of the state that has two single-toilet restrooms, both of which can be locked from the inside.

He said the signs on both doors simply read, “Wash up. Whichever one is open is the one you use.”

Rubio said she looks forward to eating at that restaurant.

Rubio expects the bill will next be heard in the Senate Public Affairs Committee.

General Assignment Reporter

Robert Nott has covered education and youth issues for the Santa Fe New Mexican. He is assigned to The New Mexican's city desk where he covers a general assignment beat.

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