Last week, Milwaukee legislators introduced a bill that addresses a gender parity issue gaining traction across the country.
Nine out of 10 fathers who live with children under the age of five bathe, diaper, or dress them regularly, according to the CDC. Yet, diaper-changing stations in public are still typically limited to women’s restrooms.
Three Wisconsin lawmakers—who also happen to be dads of young children—aim to address this gender parity issue in their state: Last week, Milwaukee Democrats Rep. Jonathan Brostoff, Rep. David Crowley, and Sen. Chris Larson introduced new legislation that would require changing tables to be installed in both men’s and women’s bathrooms in public buildings that are newly built or more than 50-percent renovated. In buildings with gender-inclusive restrooms, at least one must include a changing station, according to the bill.
“As a new dad, this legislation hits close to home for me,” Rep. Brostoff said in a statement. “When I take my son with me outside of the house, I am consistently struck by how few businesses have changing stations available for parents. What’s even more notable is that, in a lot of cases, the businesses that do have diaper changing tables only have them in women’s restrooms. As a father who has spent the last year changing countless diapers, I can’t tell you how frustrating that lack of access can be.”
He also told local CBS affiliate WDJT that he’s “had situations where I’ve had to change my baby on the floor.”
Rep. Adam Neylon, a Republican representing Pewaukee, has already suggested he may vote against the bill, which could come up for a vote in the spring. “This seems to be an expensive new regulation on the back of taxpayers who are going to be paying for it,” he told NBC 26 Green Bay.
If the legislation does eventually pass, it would go into effect January 1, 2021.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) supports mandating changing tables in both men’s and women’s restrooms. According to HealthyChildren.org, the organization’s parenting website, the lack of diaper-changing stations in men’s bathrooms leaves out “entire subsets of men who could need to change a baby’s diaper at some point in public―single dads, stay-at-home dads, two-dad families, grandpas, uncles, male babysitters, etc.”
In other words, the AAP states: “The lack of changing tables in public men’s restrooms is an issue that affects any man who spends time with a child in diapers.”
Other states have taken on this new type of “bathroom bill,” including Arizona and Connecticut. In January, New York started requiring equal accessibility to changing tables in restrooms, while similar laws in Illinois and New Mexico will go into effect in January 2020.
Shortly before leaving office, President Obama signed legislation in 2016 mandating baby-changing stations in both men’s and women’s restrooms in federal buildings. The Bathrooms Accessible in Every Situation (BABIES) Act requires changing facilities that are “physically safe, sanitary, and appropriate” be available in both men’s and women’s restrooms in federal buildings open to the public.
For Rep. Crowley, one of the sponsors of the Wisconsin bill, ensuring equal access to changing stations helps families like his: He has three kids, including a newborn. “No one really likes to talk about it, but dealing with diapers is a huge part of being a parent of young kids,” he said in a statement.