State Rep proposes Ohio lavatory legislation

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

Everybody has opinions, and everybody poops. And some people have strong opinions about where others choose to poop.

State RepresentativeJohn Becker falls in the latter category. The Republican from Union Township, about 20 miles east of Cincinnati, is working on statewide legislation that will require people to use bathrooms that correspond with their genitalia, as opposed to their gender identity. Up for reelection this cycle, Becker has a history of accessibility agendas and is no stranger to legislating around genitalia. His overall voting record since being elected in 2012 has been to make guns more accessible and abortions less accessible. (Since 2013, he has voted to limit the procedure six times.)

Becker's most recent crusade is in direct response to a differing opinion, one made 700 miles away by a corporation. This past April, the Target Corporation announced its policy to welcome transgender team members and guests to use the restroom or fitting room facility that corresponds with their gender identity.

While the company did not respond to questions fromAlive, Target makes its position clear on its website and has been unwavering, despite 1.2 million people pledging to boycott its stores. "We believe that everyone deserves to be protected from discrimination, and treated equally," the company's statement reads. "Consistent with this belief, Target supports the federal Equality Act, which provides protections to LGBT individuals, and opposes action that enables discrimination."

According to a post on his personal Facebook account, Becker believes this decision by the Target Corporation puts women and children in danger of sexual predators. "This is the note I just sent to Target's corporate office," he wrote. "'Are you out of your collective minds? Why are you perpetuating a war on women and children by allowing men in the women's restrooms? Is "political correctness" more important to you than public safety?'"

A portion of one Target store falls within Becker's district. When asked if sexual predators have been an issue for his constituents, Becker responded by email, "Sexual predators are always a concern."

Closer to home, one business has been operating with trans-friendly restrooms for three years without incident. Mike Folker, owner of Bossy Grrl's Pin Up Joint, is proud of his bar's gender-neutral bathrooms, marked "heads" or "tails" with corresponding pennies lining the floors.

Folker said this approach to restrooms helps to make his establishment feel welcoming to all his customers (trans and non) and that everyone who comes through appreciates the setup. Perks to making restroom facilities accessible to all include shorter lines and cleaner bathrooms. (There's added social pressure to be clean, he said, when your date may be the next one in.)

Folkerbelieves Becker is using a wedge issue to garner votes this fall. "Taking a small minority of people to tell them they're not welcome is a really poor way to win a reelection," he said. "Republicans are supposed to be for the free market. Businesses should decide what the best approach is [for their customers]. I think that [Becker] ought to check his principles."

As to whether Representative Becker would choose "heads" or "tails" when using the facilities at Bossy Grrl's, Folker said he can't predict, but "I'd love to watch his confusion as he tries to decide."