Lawmakers in New York City passed a bill on Monday that addresses the all-too-common sexist parenting trope that dads don't change diapers, according to HuffPost. The historic legislation requires that all men's public restrooms have diaper changing tables, and it's a huge step forward for all parents. It sends the message that dads are active and hands-on parents, and it defies the idea that moms should be the sole caregivers of their children — or the notion that all parenting pairs have a mom available to change diapers.
The bill, which was introduced by New York City Council Member Rafael Espinal, requires all new building developments with public restrooms to include diaper changing tables in its women's and men's bathrooms. If an older building is renovated, its owners will have to add a changing diaper station to its men's restroom if there isn't one already installed. When you consider how many public restrooms there are in NYC, it's hard to not be blown away by how transformative this bill is for the city.
Espinal got the idea for the bill after he witnessed a dad changing his child on top of a public sink, a scene he found "unsanitary and wrong," according to a press release:
More often than not, public restrooms do not have dedicated spaces for families to care for their children. After witnessing a father changing his daughter’s diaper on an unsanitary sink in a public space, I thought it was important for diaper changing stations to be a requirement in all public bathrooms. Moms and dads should have equal access to sanitary and safe spaces when changing their baby’s diapers. I am proud NYC is building upon the work of President Obama when he required federal buildings to have this requirement. Now, every public building in NYC will have to create a space to allow parents to change their child's diaper with dignity.
Espinal's statement references a bill Obama signed into law in 2016 — the Bathrooms Accessible in Every Situation Act (BABIES). The bill requires diaper changing stations in male and female restrooms in public federal buildings, according to CNN.
Rhode Island Rep. David Cicilline, who first proposed BABIES, said of its importance, according to Khon 2:
Equal access to baby changing stations in federal buildings in both men's and women's bathrooms across the country is essential to protecting the health and safety of children and encouraging a family friendly environment.
And Cicilline brought up a good point when he said that this type of legislation promotes a "family friendly environment." Families are like really tiny communities, and each member of a family needs to be an active participant for it to succeed. Not only does this type of legislation acknowledge the reality that fathers take care of their children's needs, but it also encourages dads to be more hands on with their kids. Sadly, some dads are led to believe that they're ill-equipped to parent their children, which is completely false. Installing diaper changing tables in all public men's restrooms makes it clear that dads are more than capable of changing a diaper.
Another benefit of Espinal's bill to consider is how it will positively affect diverse families. The bill addresses the needs of two-dad households, single dads, and other families that don't have a mom-and-dad setup. No matter how you slice it, this bill is a win-win.
Although BABIES' passage was a big step forward for parents, it failed to address public restrooms. Thanks to Espinal and fellow lawmakers, New York City is now the first major city in the United States to require changing stations in men's public restrooms. This is an unbelievably huge step forward for all families, and hopefully more U.S. cities will follow suit.
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