February 4, 2020 at 12:35 pm EST | by Lou Chibbaro Jr.
Diaper changing tables in D.C. gay bars?
(Photo by Mike Mozart via Flickr)

A proposed bill that could require restaurants, bars, and nightclubs, including gay bars, to install diaper changing tables in women’s and men’s bathrooms, was the subject of a D.C. Council hearing on Jan. 28.

But only two witnesses showed up to testify on the Equal Access to Changing Tables Amendment Act of 2020, and both strongly urged the Council to make a number of changes to the bill, including the addition of an exemption for establishments such as bars and nightclubs that restrict admission to people 18 or 21 years of age or older.

The witnesses were gay nightlife advocate Mark Lee, who serves as coordinator of the D.C. Nightlife Council; and Andrew Kline, general counsel for the Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington.

D.C. Council members Brianne Nadeau (D-Ward 1), Robert White (D-At-Large), and Charles Allen (D-Ward 6) co-introduced the bill last June. Nadeau said the bill was aimed in part at addressing concerns raised by men with children, including gay male couples, that very few men’s bathrooms in public places have diaper changing tables.

The bill would require that diaper-changing accommodations be available for use by all genders in a D.C.-owned or occupied building that includes at least one toilet facility that’s open to the public. It would also require diaper changing accommodations be available for use by all genders in newly constructed or “substantially renovated” business establishments that include at least one toilet facility open to the public.

Lee and Kline pointed out at the hearing that nightlife establishments such as bars and nightclubs that restrict admission to anyone under 18 or 21 would be bound by the proposed bill if they are newly opened – existing establishments are exempted – or if they make renovations that cost $10,000 or more.

The two noted that diaper changing tables would obviously not be needed in a bar or club open to adults only. They urged Nadeau and D.C. Council Chair Phil Mendelson, who presides over the Council’s Committee of the Whole, which held the hearing, to take steps to exempt such establishments from the bill’s diaper table requirements.

Lee noted that a large number of hospitality industry establishments in the city that are open to and welcome children already provide diaper changing accommodations.

Nadeau and Mendelson said they would take Lee and Kline’s recommendations under consideration.

Lou Chibbaro Jr. has reported on the LGBT civil rights movement and the LGBT community for more than 30 years, beginning as a freelance writer and later as a staff reporter and currently as Senior News Reporter for the Washington Blade. He has chronicled LGBT-related developments as they have touched on a wide range of social, religious, and governmental institutions, including the White House, Congress, the U.S. Supreme Court, the military, local and national law enforcement agencies and the Catholic Church. Chibbaro has reported on LGBT issues and LGBT participation in local and national elections since 1976. He has covered the AIDS epidemic since it first surfaced in the early 1980s. Follow Lou

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