Transgender county residents might not need IDs to use bathrooms they choose

Residents would be able to use restrooms and dressing rooms based on their gender identities under a proposal before the Cook County Board.

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Kevin B. Morrison | Rich Hein/Sun-Times

Commissioner Kevin Morrison, D-Mount Prospect, led the charge on getting the amendment to the county’s human rights ordinance passed in the Human Relations Committee Wednesday.

Transgender Cook County residents soon would be able to use restrooms, dressing rooms and other facilities they choose, based on their gender identities, without having to show IDs, if the county board approves the change Thursday.

Originally, the language of the county’s human rights ordinance said the determination of “an individual’s sex or gender shall be based upon the sex or gender of that individual as reflected on any official identification of that individual recognized by the State of Illinois, including a driver’s license or state identification card.”

The updated language removes that provision and adds “‘sex’ includes both biological category and gender identity. Each person determines their own gender identity; no proof of an individual’s sex or gender shall be required except for the person’s expression of their own gender.”

Kevin Morrison, D-Mount Prospect, who spearheaded the change, said “every person has the right to live their lives openly and authentically as who they are.”

“As we’ve seen across the country, there is an all out assault on the transgender community including trying to limit trans and gender non-conforming individuals from going to the bathroom that aligns with their gender identity,” said Morrison, the board’s first and only openly-gay commissioner.

“We know there are people who would use these tactics to harass trans people, and I’m glad this will move to a full county board vote tomorrow to be passed and take away one barrier that trans people still face,” Morrison said.

The amended language applies to every building with public restrooms in the county, except Evanston and Chicago because they have their own human rights ordinances, Morrison said. It received bipartisan support Wednesday.

The change comes in an amendment to the county’s public accommodations portion of its human rights ordinance. The change passed the county’s Human Relations Committee two days before the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots, a multi-day series of demonstrations led by members of the LGBTQ community against a police raid on Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village in New York City that many point to as the origin point for the movement for LGBT civil rights.  

Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle thanked Morrison for getting the issue passed and noted Chicago’s “rich history of moving the needle through sustained and passionate activism and LGBTQ history is no exception.”

“I see a direct line from the advocacy of the 1980s and the 1990s to us today,” Preckwinkle said. “Though Chicago has long been home to the LGBT community, we know that it’s taken decades of passionate leaders to get us where we are today.”

The measure will go into effect immediately if passed by the full board at its Thursday meeting.

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