Changing a baby is challenging enough without having to do it on the floor. But for many dads across the country, the lack of changing tables in men's restrooms means that they have no choice. Legislation signed into law by President Obama aims to ensure that every public building includes changing tables in both men's and women's restrooms, but how many states already have changing tables for dads? Unfortunately, they don't appear to have been required anywhere until now.
Introduced by Rhode Island Rep. David Cicilline, the BABIES (Bathrooms Accessible In Every Situation) act ensures that federal government buildings open to the public include baby changing tables accessible to both men and women, BuzzFeed News reported. Both men's and women's restrooms will be required to have baby changing facilities that are "physically safe, sanitary, and appropriate," according to the text of the bill. The law won't impact private businesses owners: they'll still get to determine whether to put changing tables in men's and women's restrooms. But in the near future, dads making a run to the post office won't have to worry about taking their infants with them. The law is a major step toward ensuring that caregivers who use the men's restroom have the facilities they need to support a baby on the go.
This is the first time changing table equity gained major legislative traction, though plenty have tried to build political and public support for the concept in the past. New York Sen. Brad Hoylman introduced a bill in April 2015 to amend the New York State Civil Rights Law to ensure that public buildings undergoing future renovations must install changing tables in men's restrooms if they provide them in women's restrooms, The Huffington Post reported. He said that his desire to see a legal change stemmed from his experience parenting with his husband; they often had to turn floors and hallways into impromptu changing areas for their daughter. The changing table legislation is in committee, according to Slate.
Legislators tried for similar laws in California. One bill called for changing tables in men's and women's public restrooms in state-owned facilities by requiring either construction of new restrooms or renovations of existing ones, Reuters reported. Another required businesses to incorporate changing tables into any restroom construction projects or renovations. California Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed both in 2014, citing his desire to give the private sector control over decisions regarding changing stations. Though he said it could "be a good business practice" to put changing facilities in both men's and women's restrooms, he determined that it wouldn't be sensible for the government to make that decision for business owners.
The signing of the BABIES act into law appears to mark the first time any building in any state will be required to ensure changing tables are accessible to caregivers who use both men's and women's restrooms. Though there are many dads who hoped for equity sooner, the good news is that change is on the way.