Putting Men on Diaper Duty

Diaper changing stations are required by law in men's and women's restrooms in federal government buildings and at least four states.

Diaper changing stations are required by law in men's and women's restrooms in federal government buildings and at least four states. Shutterstock

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Lawmakers in Wisconsin hope to require more public buildings to place diaper changing stations in both men's and women's restrooms, the latest state to debate this new twist for so-called "potty parity."

Many public buildings in Wisconsin would be required to provide diaper changing stations in both men’s and women’s restrooms under a bill recently introduced in the state legislature.

The legislation, introduced by three male Democrats from Milwaukee, would require most newly built or substantially renovated public buildings to install diaper changing stations in either unisex restrooms or in both men’s and women’s bathrooms, ensuring gender parity in access. 

That provision was particularly important to state Rep. Jonathan Brostoff, one of the bill’s sponsors and a new father who struggled to find designated places in public buildings to change his son’s diapers.

“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,” he said in a statement. “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.”

As written, the legislation would apply to new construction and renovations that affect more than 50 percent of a restroom’s square footage, as well as renovations that cost more than $10,000. Some businesses, including bars and nightclubs, would be exempt.

Changing stations have been required in both male and female restrooms in federal buildings since 2016, when then-President Barack Obama signed into law the BABIES Act. The fight for equitable diaper changing stations is the latest version of "potty parity" legislation taken up by state lawmakers, who in the past have often focused on the disparities in restroom facilities that often result in women waiting in longer lines. States requiring greater diaper station access for men  have been introduced and passed with bipartisan support in a number of states, including California, Illinois, New Mexico and Utah

The legislative push across the country shows that the issue is a common one for parents, according to state Sen. Chris Larson, one of the bill’s cosponsors.

“At the end of the day, this bill is about two things: recognizing the times and supporting Wisconsin’s families,” he said in a statement. “Any parent who wants to take care of their child should feel empowered and supported in that effort.”

Kate Elizabeth Queram is a Staff Correspondent for Route Fifty and is based in Washington, D.C.

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