Men are parents, too, a longstanding fact New York state will now formally acknowledge in law. Going forward, newly constructed public bathrooms for every gender must include changing tables, thanks to a measure originally passed last April as part of the 2019 fiscal year budget. Baffling, honestly, that no one though to do this before 2018, but here we are.
"New York proudly leads the nation in fighting for the rights of working parents, and by ensuring access to these amenities, we will help ensure all New Yorkers can give their children the care they need at this critical stage of their lives," Governor Andrew Cuomo said in a statement issued April 5.
The idea, Cuomo said, was to make the state "stronger, fairer and more equal" for all its residents. So: Starting now, all "new or substantially renovated" public restrooms will have to have a minimum of one changing station on-hand, while all state buildings open to the public must also have lactation rooms available for nursing parents.
In September, a photo of a Florida man went viral with the hashtag #squatforchange. In it, dad Donte Palmer can be seen bracing against a bathroom wall, squatting so his son can lie across his lap for an extremely inconvenient diaper change. This photo really resonated with Palmer's fellow dads: "Eighty percent of the conversation was, we need father equality," he told the NY Times.
That conversation has been ongoing, and has even attracted celebrity voices: In 2015, for example, Ashton Kutcher offered a free social media boost to any men's room that provided its patrons with a changing table. Indeed, in 2016, dad extraordinaire Barack Obama got involved, signing the Bathrooms Accessible in Every Situation—BABIES—law, which mandated that federal public buildings must put changing tables in all their bathrooms.
Introducing the New York bill in 2015, state Senator Brad Hoylman emphasized that the dearth of changing stations for dads harkened back to times when women weren't really welcome in the workforce, and marriage was for heterosexual couples only. "We no longer live in an age of segregated gender spheres," he noted. "If we expect fathers to bear more of the burden of child-care, we must ensure that public accommodations reflect this new normal."
Actually, it's a point Hoylman buried toward the end of his statement that I find most compelling. "All family or gender-neutral bathrooms," he wrote, "would be an elegant and simple solution." I would tend to agree: Make sure anyone can do whatever bathroom business they need to do, whenever they need to do it. *Bangs gavel* Case settled, court is adjourned, and congratulations to all our local dads.