The legalities of public restrooms

It’s legal for people to use restrooms designated for the opposite gender in Tacoma and other municipalities

In public restrooms such as parks police will respond to reports of men using women’s restrooms and women using men’s restrooms, said Tacoma police spokeswoman Loretta Cool.

“We try to determine what their purpose is,” she said.

Officers ask if the choice was the person’s intention and make sure the person is not engaging in illegal behavior, she said.

Every situation is different and requires an officer’s discretion, Cool said. It could be a woman avoiding long lines at a show and using a stall in a men’s room or it could be a sex offender.

“We don’t know until we ask the questions,” she said.

If no criminal behavior is occurring, the officer will tell the person they are raising concern and suggest they consider using a different gender restroom.

“I wouldn’t walk away. I would stay there,” Cool said of situations that raise alarm.

Private organizations and businesses are handled differently, Cool said. In those cases managers and owners have a right to regulate who uses restrooms.

Thus, the commonly seen sign “Restrooms for customers only” is legal, Cool said.

Craig Sailor, staff writer

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