Could Wisconsin see a broadly bipartisan bathroom bill?

    Future dads learning to change diapers
    Military men practice putting a diaper on a "baby" at a Dads class, for men. (U.S. Air Force photo by Karen Abeyasekere)

    Bathroom bills are making a comeback in some states, including Wisconsin. 

    But this time, it’s a completely different toilet equity issue. This one might stand a chance of becoming a broadly bipartisan bathroom bill, as has happened with similar bills in other states.

    Today three legislators introduced LRB-4562 to “ensure gender parity and greater access,” to bathrooms that have baby changing tables — particularly men’s rooms — which are often overlooked even when nearby women’s restrooms have changing tables.

    “As a new dad, this legislation hits close to home for me,” said Rep. Jonathan Brostoff (D-Milwaukee). “When I take my son with me outside of the house, I am consistently struck by how few businesses have changing stations available for parents. What’s even more notable is that, in a lot of cases, the businesses that do have diaper changing tables only have them in women’s restrooms.

    “As a father who has spent the last year changing countless diapers, I can’t tell you how frustrating that lack of access can be.”

    The other two co-authors are fellow dads-of-young-children: Sen. Chris Larson (D-Milwaukee) and Rep. David Crowley (D-Milwaukee). Larson has young children and Crowley welcomed a new addition to his family earlier this month.

    Their bill would ensure “broad, gender-equal access to baby changing tables” by requiring them in public buildings that are new or undergoing substantially renovation. The changing tables require gender parity — in that they can be installed in “unisex” restrooms or both men’s and women’s restrooms.

    The authors assert it can help parents with babies be social and civic minded by making it easier to get out of the house and bring a baby along. In a press release, they also said that their bill is among “a number of pieces of changing table-related legislation” introduced around the country, and that similar bills have passed with broad bipartisan support in Arizona, Utah, California, Illinois and New Mexico.

    “No one really likes to talk about it, but dealing with diapers is a huge part of being a parent of young kids,” added Rep. Crowley. “As a father with a beautiful newborn, I know firsthand the importance of access to changing tables. This bill helps ensure that parents and caregivers don’t have to make a false choice between spending time with their kids and fully engaging with their friends and community.”

    Melanie Conklin
    Melanie Conklin is proud to be a native of the state of Wisconsin, which gave humankind the typewriter, progressivism and deep-fried cheese curds. Her several decades in journalism include political beats and columns at Isthmus newspaper, the Wisconsin State Journal and other publications. When not an ink-stained wretch, she served time inside state, local and federal government in communications. She is excited to be back at the craft of journalism as Deputy Editor of the Wisconsin Examiner. It’s what she’s loved ever since getting her master’s degree in journalism from the UW-Madison. Her family includes one husband, two kids, four dogs and five (or more) chinchillas.