Diaper changing accommodations proposed

A bill that would require diaper changing tables in public bathrooms was heard by the Business and Labor Committee Feb. 28.

Sen. Terrell McKinney
Sen. Terrell McKinney

LB815, introduced by Omaha Sen. Terrell McKinney, would require public accommodation spaces that already have a publicly accessible bathroom to install at least one diaper changing station in the women’s and men’s bathrooms and in a gender-neutral or family bathroom. Signage indicating the location of a diaper changing station also would be required under the bill.

An exemption could be granted by a local permitting entity or building inspector if the installation of a diaper changing station would not be feasible or would result in failure to comply with building regulations. Provisions of the bill would take effect Jan. 1, 2023.

McKinney said the “good life” should mean an end to diapers being changed on the floor of public restrooms merely because babies are not with their moms. Parents should be afforded equal accommodations to take care of their children, he said.

“Our society is a patriarchal one. To this end, it has been historically presumed that women are primary caretakers and men don’t take part in changing kids’ diapers. This is no longer the case,” he said. “Men, too, take an active part in child-rearing and deserve accommodations that add to that effect.”

Claire Wiebe of Planned Parenthood North Central States in Nebraska testified in support of the bill. The U.S. has seen an increase in stay-at-home dads and families choosing to split child care responsibilities, Wiebe said, and not all families have a female partner who can easily access a women’s bathroom.

“Public spaces should reflect the needs of the people they serve,” Wiebe said. “Not all families fit into the nuclear structure that many spaces — spaces like the Capitol — are designed for and that diversity should be reflected in ensuring equitable access to facilities for child care, including diaper changing stations.”

Also in support of the bill was Scout Richters, who spoke on behalf of the ACLU of Nebraska. With the proposed legislation, Richters said, women no longer would have sole responsibility for changing their child’s diaper in public places in Nebraska.

“The disparity of locations of current diaper changing stations creates a near impossible situation for single fathers, same-sex male parents and other male caregivers when they enter a public building and know that it’s unlikely they’ll be able to hygienically change a diaper,” Richters said. “Without diaper changing stations in all restrooms, Nebraska upholds unhelpful gender norms and stereotypes that are becoming increasingly outdated.”

No one testified in opposition to LB815 and the committee took no immediate action on it.

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