The Legislature is considering a bill that would ensure women have double the number of toilets than men do at public venues across Hawaii.

Citing long wait times and fewer stalls for women, Senate Bill 3151 — also known as the potty parity or toilet equity bill — would mandate “equal speed of access” to toilets for women at public venues.

Sen. Kai Kahele, who introduced the bill, said it’s time to update the state’s plumbing code for places like the zoo, parks, theaters, convention centers, concert and lecture halls, sports arenas and stadiums, and carnivals.

A bill considered by Hawaii lawmakers would make sure women have at least double the number of toilets that men have access to in public facilities. Chad Blair/Civil Beat

“In essence the state is doing what other states are doing nationwide, where we address discrimination in the restroom, which is why we call it the potty parity bill,” Kahele said. “It addresses the differences that are afforded to men that are not afforded to women.”

The bill does not include any gender-neutral restroom mandates and clarifies that the mandate would not apply to building plans for gender-neutral restrooms.

The bill passed the Senate on a 22-1 vote. It is now being considered by the House.

California was the first to pass such a law in 1987 after a state senator said he was tired of waiting for his wife to use the restroom at events. The California law recognizes fashion design, the male anatomy and that urinals just give men an advantage.

By 2009, there were 20 states that passed potty parity laws mandating female-to-male toilet ratios from 2-to-1 to 3-to-1.

“Hawaii is totally behind,” said Michael Markrich, president of Renew Rebuild Hawaii, an organization dedicated to sustainable, energy efficient and modern redevelopment in the islands.

Entrance to the womens restroom located between the arena entrance and the Blaisdell Exhibition Hall.
Places like the Blaisdell Exhibition Hall would be included in a potty parity law being considered by lawmakers. Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2020

Markrich was reminded of the issue during a graduation ceremony held at the Stan Sheriff Center last year, when he saw long lines outside of the women’s restroom.

“I thought, ‘Wow, how absolutely unfair this is,’” he said. “Aside from the unfairness, this is a really serious health issue.”

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Not only do women experience health issues like urinary tract infections, long lines can also cause a sanitation problem, he said.

“It’s impossible to keep up with the cleanliness that’s needed,” Markrich said. “The facility coding hasn’t been changed since the 1950s. The reason they are the way they are is because there used to be fewer women in the workplace.”

The law would also apply to building renovations or retrofits installed after Jan. 1, 2021.

“I think it’s a step in the right direction,” Kahele said, noting that he has seen the issue when out with his wife and daughters.

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