Public facilities could restrict transgender bathroom access: Ohio AG

In a legal opinion issued on Friday, the Ohio Attorney General indicated that public facilities owned by the government could restrict bathroom provisions for transgender individuals according to biological sex.

Greene County Prosecutor, David Hayes, sought clarification from the Attorney General’s office on whether limiting the usage of restrooms, changing rooms, or locker rooms to one’s biological sex at birth would contravene Ohio law.

Dave Yost, Ohio’s Republican Attorney General, responded on Friday. He stated that Ohio law does not preclude entities from formulating policies that limit the use of bathrooms, changing rooms, and locker rooms to a single sex.

According to Yost, government policies dictating separate bathroom usage for different sexes are legally permissible unless such a policy infringes on an individual’s right to the “full enjoyment” of public accommodations, thereby contravening the statute’s exception.

The Ohio Revised Code stipulates that exception as not permitting proprietors to deny anyone the “full enjoyment” of public accommodations “except for reasons applicable alike to all persons.”

Yost interpreted this to mean, “the operator can limit or deny access only if the reasons for doing so do not take any protected trait into account.”

Yost maintained that failing to segregate sexes in public restrooms would contravene the intent of anti-discrimination laws. He argued that designating separate facilities for different sexes does not breach the rights conferred by R.C. 4112.02(G). Instead, he contended, this segregation in private areas ensures no one is denied the full enjoyment of public accommodations based on sex.

Yost further emphasized that the need for individuals to retain privacy from the opposite biological sex applies “without regard to their gender identities.”

Hayes also sought clarity on the Ohio Civil Rights Commission’s authority to adjudicate sex and gender discrimination cases, definitions of sex discrimination and public accommodations, and whether government entities could be held accountable for violations of Ohio anti-discrimination law.

Yost responded by indicating that whether a public restroom, changing room, or locker room in a government-owned facility qualifies as a “public accommodation” under Ohio anti-discrimination law is “a question of fact that must be determined by the courts.”

He further stated that the Ohio Civil Rights Commission does not possess the authority to definitively interpret Ohio anti-discrimination law in relation to public accommodations, except in cases explicitly presented before the commission.

Recent events in the Miami Valley have drawn attention to transgender rights law, including a not guilty verdict for a trans woman charged with public indecency at the Xenia YMCA, and a civil action against Bethel Local Schools over its transgender restroom policy.

Though Attorney General opinions offer valuable guidance to public officials and are not legally binding, they are often given considerable weight in court deliberations.

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