By Ryan Deto
PITTSBURGH — If a business or organization wants to build an all-gender or gender-neutral bathroom in Allegheny County, it must seek a code variance from the Allegheny County Health Department. That means inclusive bathrooms for nonbinary and trans people are a lot more cumbersome to create in Allegheny County than some believe they should be.
And one of those people calling for change is state Rep. Dan Frankel, D-Allegheny.
On Monday, he sent a letter to ACHD explaining that a simple language change to the county’s plumbing code would remove the barrier for some businesses and organizations to build inclusive and gender-neutral restrooms. Currently, the code only mentions “male” and “female” regarding toilet facilities in restrooms.
“I was surprised to learn that even if it wished to, a business or organization is blocked from designating an all-gender restroom due to an oversight buried in the county’s plumbing code,” Frankel said in a statement released by his office.
According to a 2018 response document from ACHD, a variance may be issued to relabel a men’s or women’s toilet room as “uni-sex” or “gender-neutral” if bathrooms provide the appropriate amount of fixtures. But a variance still has to be sought in the first place.
Frankel sent this letter to the county because the health department is currently accepting comments on revisions to the plumbing code until Fri., Sept. 25.
He notes that Allegheny County has been a leader nationally on LGBTQ rights. Recently, Allegheny County Council passed a bill to provide nondiscrimination protections to people seeking medical care, which was in response to President Donald Trump attempting to strip those protections to trans people.
“The county rightly bars discrimination against individuals on the basis of their gender identity or expression, but then also bars the owners of buildings — potentially, their employers — from accommodating them,” said Frankel in a press release. “It’s time for Allegheny County to send a consistent message: that our community welcomes and accommodates everyone because diversity benefits all of us.”