Friday, May 11, 2007

Where You Gonna Go?

Posted By on Fri, May 11, 2007 at 4:00 AM

You've probably been to a unisex bathroom; plenty of office buildings have them.

But, lest we relax our vigilance in the Culture Wars, Bryan Fischer of the Idaho Values Alliance is on top of the bathroom situation at Boise State.

For several weeks, Fischer has been in a semantic struggle with Boise State officials over just what to call the bathrooms that are open to both men and women.

What if, he posits, those were open to transgender students?

Mayhem, that's what.

“BSU would never say, for instance, that campus bathrooms are not only good for hygiene purposes, they are also ‘suitable for intravenous drug users,’ because that would be an implied endorsement of drug abuse," Fischer said in a news release this morning.

He says he's caught Boise State officials with proverbial toilet paper stuck to their shoes, when they admitted that, yes, the bathrooms might also be suitable to those students who aren't ready to fully claim either gender.

The Associated Press's John Miller lifted up the seat on the story today, looking to figure out what stinks.

Sheepishly, I admit that BW looked into this weeks ago, and Boise State's Frank Zang said the matter was a bit of a red herring.

From the AP: Michael Laliberte, BSU's vice president for student affairs, said the university won't infringe on student groups. "They have the right, based on their freedom of speech and of the press, and can frankly call a bathroom anything that they want," he told the AP in an e-mail. "However, all official university publications will refer to it as a 'handicap accessible unisex bathroom.' "

This isn't the first time that bathrooms have been so politicized. Nor is Boise State the first campus to have to deal with this question.

We await the Idaho Legislature's take on the position. As is his custom, Fischer broadcast his e-mail not only to the press, but to several lawmakers friendly to his cause: Sen. Russ Fulcher, a Meridian Republican; Sen. Monty Pearce, a New Plymouth Republican; Rep. Bob Nonini, a Couer d'Alene Republican; and Rep. Steve Thayn, an Emmett Republican.

Update: Frank Zang today sent out this memo to reporters, we'll print it here:

All construction at Boise State University is subject to the 2003 International Building Code per the Idaho Department of Building Safety. The International Building Code requires that the university include unisex restroom facilities in newly constructed campus buildings. In brief, the requirement provides that in "assembly and mercantile" occupancies (buildings with conference rooms, ballrooms, food service, etc.), one accessible unisex bathroom is required when six or more male or female bathroom fixtures are provided.

The purpose of unisex bathrooms is to meet the needs of disabled persons who require assistance from an attendant who may be of the opposite sex. They are also often commonly referred to as "family bathrooms" because they serve the same purpose for a parent of a small child of the opposite sex.

The requirement is standard throughout the state and nation, and one can see these sorts of bathroom facilities in other public buildings, including airports, courthouses and colleges/universities.

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