'Potty Parity Act' seeks restroom equality in federal buildings

Rep. Edolphus Towns (D-N.Y.) is the lead sponsor of the Potty Parity Act.
Rep. Edolphus Towns (D-N.Y.) is the lead sponsor of the Potty Parity Act. (Andrew Harrer - Bloomberg)
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By Ed O'Keefe
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, March 19, 2010

Lawmakers concerned about a shortage of women's restrooms in federal buildings introduced the "Potty Parity Act" on Thursday to ensure equal access for men and women in future federal buildings and in facilities leased by the government.

Democrats and Republicans on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hope to establish an equal number of toilets for men and women at government buildings. They note that some private employers have laid off women instead of expanding facilities.

Rep. Edolphus Towns (D-N.Y.), the bill's lead sponsor and the chairman of the oversight panel, said in a statement that he is concerned about "exasperating lines" and general restroom accommodations for women in government buildings. Part of the problem stems from buildings constructed decades ago, before women joined the federal workforce in large numbers, he said.

"Our nation's history shows that the structure and accessibility of American public restrooms have served as manifestations of more deeply rooted problems of discrimination, among race, physical ability and gender," Towns said in a statement. "In 2010, we must move the clock forward by finally addressing an overdue problem of unequal, inadequate and inaccessible public restrooms for women."

Towns tried unsuccessfully to get the bill passed in the last Congress, but it was never considered at the committee level. Support from the panel's ranking Republican, Rep. Darrell Issa (Calif.), should help it win GOP support.

Advocates have pushed for restroom parity across the country, mostly for better access in public buildings and in the construction of sports arenas. The New York and Honolulu city councils passed laws in 2005 requiring that bars, sports arenas and other public facilities have twice as many toilets for women as for men.

That same year, local advocates threatened to sue the District if the new Washington Nationals baseball stadium did not provide restroom parity. The ballpark's commodes are evenly divided.

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