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Starting Monday, restrooms in court buildings to be based on gender expression

A new state gender nondiscrimination law applies to restroom selection, according to a new policy that goes into effect Monday in all buildings used by state, county and city courts.

A Feb. 11 memorandum to county court clerks and administrative judges around the state said everyone will be able to use restrooms in all court buildings based on how they perceive themselves, not on their organs.

"No person shall be denied access to restrooms (including multi-stall facilities) on the basis of gender identity or expression," said the memo from John W. McConnell, counsel to the Office of Court Administration.

The Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act, signed Jan. 25 by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, defines "gender identity or expression" as "a person's actual or perceived gender-related identity, appearance, behavior, expression or other gender-related characteristic regardless of the sex assigned to that person at birth, including, but not limited to, the status of being transgender."

"Our policy is that an individual has a right to use the restroom that is consistent with one's own gender identity or expression," Lucian Chalfen, spokesman for the state's Unified Court System, said Thursday.

A female who perceives herself as female still is supposed to use the women's room, no matter how long the line is, Chalfen confirmed. And a person with male organs also can use the women's room if that person has a female self-identity. The reverse also is true: a person with female organs who has a male self-identity is legally allowed to use the men's room.

"It's not about convenience," Chalfen said. "This is about one's expression of their gender identity."

Signs explaining this eventually will be posted in all 330 buildings that host state, county or city courts, including county courthouses and most city halls, according to O'Connell's memo.

Chalfen said those signs still are being designed.

"It will be as simple or declarative as we can make it," he said. "If one has to use the restroom, you don't need to spend five minutes reading about which one to use."

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