DC law protects transgender people’s choice of bathrooms

WASHINGTON — The ever-growing national discussion about the rights of transgender people and their use of public bathrooms has made its way to the nation’s capital.

Yesterday, a security guard was arrested for allegedly forcing a transgender woman from a grocery store restroom. The transgender community said she has a right to use the facility.

“This individual was just trying to use the bathroom,” said Joanna Cifredo, racial and economic justice policy analyst for the National Center for Transgender Equality. “They weren’t breaking the law.”

The law says no company can tell a customer which bathroom to use, and it’s law that all single-stall bathrooms are gender neutral, Cifredo said.

The woman is protected under the D.C. Human Rights Act, said Arthur Spitzer, legal director for the city’s American Civil Liberties Union.

“The D.C. Human Rights Act specifically prohibits discrimination based on gender identity and that’s been the law in D.C. for a number of years,” Spitzer said. “It protects such discrimination in places of public accommodation that would include restrooms in public places — such as restaurants, hotels, theaters, office buildings, anything like that.”

While Spitzer said people should be aware and respectful of the law, Cifredo is uncomfortable with the way the discussion got its start locally.

“I think this situation highlights and underscores the need to have more dialogue,” Cifredo said. “But trans people should not be subjected to assault to have that conversation.”

Megan Cloherty

WTOP Investigative Reporter Megan Cloherty primarily covers breaking news, crime and courts.

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