NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) -- New York City has enacted a regulation that ensures people visiting city facilities can use restrooms or locker rooms aligned with their gender identity.
Mayor Bill de Blasio signed an executive order on Monday that guarantees people access to single-sex facilities consistent with their gender identity at city facilities, including offices, pools and recreation centers, without the need to show identification or any other proof of gender. The move comes amid a continuing national debate over anti-discrimination laws.
"Access to bathrooms and other single-sex facilities is a fundamental human right that should not be restricted or denied to any individual,'' de Blasio said. "Every New Yorker should feel safe in our city -- and this starts with our city's buildings.''
Bianey Garcia, a transgender woman and organizer for Make the Road New York, said she was once prohibited from using the women's restroom at a restaurant by its owner.
"That day I felt humiliated, but like so many others I didn't think of making a complaint or telling anyone because of fear, frustration and disbelief. Access to the ladies bathroom is my right as a transgender woman, as a human being," Garcia said.
The new regulations apply to all city-owned buildings, including city offices, public parks, playgrounds, pools, recreation centers and certain museums. It doesn't require agencies to build new single-stall restroom or locker room facilities, but instead enforces that all individuals, including those who are transgender or gender non-conforming, are free to use single-sex facilities consistent with their gender identity, city officials said.
The order does not apply to the city's public schools because there already is a policy that students must be allowed to use locker rooms or restrooms consistent with their gender identity. A bill currently pending before the City Council would require publicly available, single-occupancy restrooms in both public and private buildings to be designated as gender-neutral.
An estimated 25,000 transgender or gender non-conforming people live in New York City, officials said. De Blasio's executive order went into effect immediately after it was signed on Monday.
"New York City is the birthplace of the fight for LGBT rights, and we continue to lead in that fight so every New Yorker can live with dignity," de Blasio said.
Nearly all of the nation's 20 largest cities, including New York City, have local or state nondiscrimination laws that allow transgender people to use whatever bathroom they identify with, though a debate has raged around the topic nationwide.
Houston voters defeated an ordinance in the fall that would have established nondiscrimination protections for gay and transgender people. Last week, South Dakota's governor vetoed a bill that would have made the state the first in the U.S. to approve a law requiring transgender students to use bathrooms and locker rooms that match their sex at birth.
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