Mayor Ravi Bhalla signed an Executive Order on Wednesday morning to put the policy into effect immediately at all city owned single restrooms.
HOBOKEN — City officials are hoping Hoboken becomes the first municipality in the state to require single-occupancy bathrooms be labeled as gender neutral in an effort to be more inclusive to the transgender community.
Mayor Ravi Bhalla signed an executive order Wednesday morning putting the policy, which affects all city-owned single-occupancy bathrooms, into effect immediately. Bhalla plans to institute the same policy in private businesses and restaurants as early as next month through a city ordinance.
“The trans community remains one of the most systemically persecuted groups in the country,” Bhalla said. “They deserve our respect. They deserve our support. And they deserve our protection.”
The executive order would only immediately affect “a few” restrooms. City officials say the measure is just one to further respect the rights of the transgender community. The citywide ordinance will be introduced for a first reading on May 2 and is being sponsored by First Ward Councilman Michael DeFusco and Councilwoman-at-large Emily Jabbour.
A second reading of the ordinance and public hearing would be held May 16. If it passes during that meeting, Bhalla intends to sign to measure the following day.
DeFusco, the city’s first openly gay councilman, called the ordinance a “small and symbolic, meaningful step” toward equality. He says he plans to introduce another ordinance that would add a trans-inclusive healthcare program for city employees.
“This is a great first step, but we have a lot of steps ahead of us to truly make us a place that is welcoming for all of us,” DeFusco said.
City officials have not met with business owners to discuss the proposed changes, but do not anticipate much resistance.
La Casa, a small restaurant on Newark Street one block away from city hall, only has one bathroom that is already marked with a gender-neutral sign. Manager Alan Fox, who has worked in Hoboken businesses for more than two decades, approves of the city’s plan.
“Everyone should feel comfortable when they are out,” Fox said. “There’s no reason to feel uncomfortable going anywhere.”