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In a Feb. 19 Ingham County Services Committee meeting, a resolution unanimously passed to improve the accessibility of gender-segregated restroom facilities on Ingham County’s property.
“Therefore be it resolved, that all restrooms and gender-segregated facilities on property operated by Ingham County shall be accessible to individuals consistent with their gender identity or gender expression and that all single-occupancy restroom facilities shall use gender-neutral signage,” read the resolution.
Commissioner Ryan Sebolt, a member of the LGBTQ community himself, emphasized why it was important that the resolution be passed.
“We updated some of our nondiscrimination policies last year to include this language, gender identity and expression. We’ve seen a movement both in the federal courts and with the new governor to be more inclusive,” Sebolt said. “I thought this made sense with consistency in terms of our existing policies, as well as treating people with basic dignity and respect, that we move this policy forward so there is no ambiguity on where Ingham County stands on this issue. It’s about access to our residents and fair and equal treatment.”
The issue was added to the committee’s agenda via a letter sent by Michigan’s ACLU LGBT Project. During the public comment portion of the meeting preceding the decision, Chair of the Ingham Community Health Center Board of Directors Todd Heywood and Vice Chair Jennifer Hanna commented on the efficacy of existing gender-neutral bathrooms within the Center.
“We want to let you know that in the Ingham Community Health Center, our freestanding facilities all have gender neutral facilities and we follow this policy already,” Heywood said. “This is how we operate and how we have operated, and we have done that for years without really much discussion about it because it’s the right thing to do.”
Heywood also cited that the implementation of bathrooms like these could contribute positively to the Human Rights Campaign’s Healthcare Equality Index rating. Something that he said is “important to bring in more patients.”
“It’s important to bring in more revenue,” Heywood said. “And, most importantly, it’s important in the service of our patients and clients in saying, ‘You’re welcome here. This is a safe space.’”
Hanna echoed his sentiments, adding that not only is it a benefit to the LGBTQ community, but also to families.
“I appreciate the gender-neutral bathrooms. Especially as a mother, you can go in with older kids, plus I have never had an issue with it.”
Lansing Chapter Leader of Transgender Michigan Nicole Hope emphasized the importance of the resolution, too.
“I am also, myself, transgender,” Hope said. “The short of this is, ‘Do you want to affirm that people like me can exist in public or not?’”