In an official opinion from the Ohio Attorney General’s Office, Attorney General Dave Yost said that the Ohio Revised Code allows managers of public restrooms to separate restroom use according to biological sex.

In December, Green County Prosecutor David Hayes requested the opinion from Yost on whether Ohio civil rights law requires local governments to permit individuals to use public restrooms according to their stated gender identity rather than their biological sex.

The request specifically asked for clarification on the Ohio Civil Rights Commission‘s (ORCC) authority in enforcing cases of sex and gender discrimination and if policies that limit an individual’s use of a restroom, changing room, or locker room to an individual’s biological sex would be a violation of Ohio law. The filing continued to inquire if those violations would come with civil liabilities and clarification on definitions of sex discrimination and public accommodations.

Ohio Revised Code Section 4112.02 prohibits a proprietor “of a place of public accommodation to deny to any person, except for reasons applicable alike to all persons regardless of race, color, religion, sex, military status, national origin, disability, age, or ancestry, the full enjoyment of the accommodations, advantages, facilities, or privileges of the place of public accommodation.”

The Ohio General Assembly passed the first version of the law in 1961, but it wasn’t until 1973 that the provision added sex as a protected class.

Yost said that this 1973 addendum supports his claim that it is legal and still acceptable to separate people based on their biological sex in facilities.

“Providing separate bathrooms, changing rooms, and locker rooms for the separate sexes does not violate the right that R.C. 4112.02(G) confers. To the contrary, separating the sexes in these private areas helps ensure that no one is, on the basis of sex, denied the full enjoyment of public accommodations,” Yost said.

Yost noted that an individual’s desire to maintain privacy from others of the opposite sex applies “without regard to their gender identities.”

“Allowing men to share bathrooms, changing rooms, and locker rooms with women increases the ease with which biological males, most especially men who identify as men, can victimize women and girls,” Yost said.

Yost also said that while the OCRC can interpret the law, those interpretations “will not be authoritative in court.”

The attorney general stated that he could not comment on whether or not a restroom, changing area, or locker room located in a building owned by a government agency but accessible to the general public might be regarded as a “public accommodation.” He said that the courts would decide that.

Yost’s conclusion is advisory in nature and does not have a legal effect, but it serves as a guide for courts.

This opinion follows legislation introduced by Ohio House Republicans that aims to require students at K-12 schools and universities to use restrooms and locker rooms that match their biological sex.

The Bethel Local School District, located in Tipp City, north of Dayton, is also facing a lawsuit from Muslim and Christian parents after permitting students to use bathrooms according to their stated gender identity rather than their biological sex.

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Hannah Poling is a lead reporter at The Ohio Star and The Star News Network. Follow Hannah on Twitter @HannahPoling1. Email tips to [email protected]
Photo “Dave Yost” by Dave Yost.