PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) ─ While sitting at a table adorned with the colors of the rainbow, Gov. Dan McKee signed two bills into law that supporters believe promote a more equitable and inclusive environment for all LGBTQ+ Rhode Islanders.
The signing took place at Youth Pride Rhode Island in Providence, which is an organization that supports the state’s LGBTQ+ youth and young adults.
“I’m proud to sign these two pieces of legislation that will continue to make Rhode Island a more equitable and inclusive state,” McKee said. “With this legislation, we’re striving to make Rhode Island a better place – one step at a time.”
The first bill requires all single-user restrooms in public places be designated as gender-neutral by Jan. 1, 2022.
One of the bill’s sponsors, Rep. John Edwards, called it “an important step for the state to take in providing for the inclusion of all its residents.”
“Gender-specific restrooms can cause a great deal of anxiety for members of the transgender community,” Edwards said. “The reason for that anxiety is the verbal and sometimes physical harassment that many of them have experienced.”
“This bill would simply strip single-user bathrooms of any gender designation, which will go a long way toward improving the mental health of members of the transgender and non-binary community,” he continued.
Sen. Melissa Murray, another one of the bill’s sponsors, said the gender-neutral designation will not only be beneficial for members of the LGBTQ+ community, but it will also help those suffering from a variety of medical conditions.
“This is a very simple effort that will make things fair and equitable for all people,” she said.
The second bill updates the definition of sexual orientation in regard to fair housing practices. It also “eliminates an exemption that allowed discrimination based on gender identity or expression in owner-occupied buildings of three units or less,” according to lawmakers.
“Amid the critical housing shortage Rhode Island is facing, housing discrimination against individuals because of their sexual orientation or gender expression causes significant, lasting harm,” said Sen. Meghan Kallman, one of the bill’s sponsors.
“Updating the housing discrimination law, eliminating exemptions that actually allow discrimination in some cases, and expanding legal options reflects the gravity of this matter, and provides stronger protections and safety to the LGBTQ+ community,” she continued.