Chicago hotels, restaurants and grocery stores would not be allowed to require patrons to prove their gender in order to use restrooms under a proposal Mayor Rahm Emanuel introduced Wednesday.

The ordinance, which members of the city’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender caucus also sponsored, would strengthen the city’s human rights ordinance to bring it in line with recent guidelines enacted by Chicago Public Schools regarding restroom use in school facilities, according to Emanuel’s office.

If the measure passes, “public accommodations” like grocery stores would be prohibited from requiring patrons to show government IDs to access restrooms. It’s unclear whether that’s actually happening anywhere in the city, however. And the proposal says nothing about enforcement.

For Emanuel, the transgender restroom question is a hot national political issue, and he wants to be seen on what he considers the right side of it. The mayor has spoken about trying to lure businesses from North Carolina since the state approved a measure prohibiting transgender people from using bathrooms and locker rooms that don’t match the gender on their birth certificates.

Speaking to reporters Wednesday, Emanuel said he introduced the ordinance to update the city’s antidiscrimination laws after Mona Noriega, chairman of the city Commission on Human Relations, brought the blind spot on transgender use of bathrooms to his attention.

“Can I say it’s a problem (transgender people are having in Chicago)? I don’t know that individually,” he said. “I do know Mona, who’s been responsible as the commissioner on human rights for the city, said this has been a request of the transgender community, and we’re going to make the changes to reflect our values and make sure there’s no discrimination in the city of Chicago, whether that’s washrooms in the city or also in our schools.”

The proposal will head to the City Council Human Relations Committee for consideration.


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