Students at Yale Law School recently celebrated the addition of two new bathrooms to the law campus, but it’s not shiny faucets or sparking tile that had them excited.
They’re the school’s first multi-stall, gender neutral bathrooms and the fruits of years of advocacy by student groups and legal action challenging Connecticut’s building codes.
The school’s OutLaws—and organization that supports lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer members of the law school community—led the charge for more gender neutral bathrooms, with the support of the law school administration. The law campus now has 20 gender neutral stalls, counting the latest additions. Previously, only single stall bathrooms were designated as gender neutral.
“I think it’s a really positive step,” OutLaws co-president and second-year law students Hannah Hussey told the Yale Daily News. “Obviously gender equity is multifaceted, and this is one piece among many, but I think it sends a really strong message that [Yale Law School] recognizes that gender is not always a binary.”
Students began their campaign for gender-neutral restrooms in 2016, arguing that transgender students and other non-binary students sometime feel uncomfortable using bathrooms designated for either men or women, and that the existing gender-neutral bathrooms were in inconvenient locations.
But their efforts ran up against Connecticut’s building codes, which require a certain number restrooms for men and women in every building. Gender-neutral bathrooms don’t count towards those totals, and building additional bathrooms into the law school’s historic 1920s Sterling Law Building would be difficult.
The law school was denied an exemption from the code in 2017, and sued in June asking the court overrule the decision from the state’s Codes and Standards Committee. Former Governor Dannel Malloy then intervened to grant the school’s request.
“This effort involved community discussions, taking into consideration the concerns raised about religious and cultural differences,” said Ellen Cosgrove, the law school’s dean for student affairs. “Next, our students led a protracted litigation effort, advocating for changes to Connecticut law. We were fortunate that our former dean and current dean supported the student effort and we’re grateful to the University’s Office of the General Counsel for their work on this initiative.”