by Doyin Richards
Let’s take a quick trip down memory lane. In 2014, two bills were created in California to help increase equality for dads when it comes to restrooms, nicknamed, “Potty Parity for Parents.” SB1350 stated if a facility has a baby changing table in its women's restrooms, then one must exist in the men's restroom as well. SB1358 stated that all new construction must have at least one changing table that's accessible to both men and women.
Things were going smoothly.
I was the emcee of a press conference with California Senator Ricardo Lara, and we had many frustrated and concerned parents address the media about how important this legislation is for moms and dads across the state. (Lara is shown, far left, in the feature photo accompanying this piece.) The California State Assembly agreed shortly thereafter by passing SB1350 with an overwhelming bipartisan vote of 56-8.
That's pretty simple stuff, right? I mean, who wouldn't get behind something like this, right?
Once the proposed bills moved up to Governor Brown's office, he handed a proverbial blowout diaper to all of us by vetoing both of them. The media was shocked, and parents across California shook their heads in complete disbelief.
It makes more sense that the private sector deals with this issue than attempt to legislate it.
California failed when the nation was watching. Now Nevada is proposing similar legislation seeking to become the first state in America to get this done.
Sure, there will be people who are against these bills, and here are my arguments against them.
#1 - It makes more sense that the private sector deals with this issue than attempt to legislate it. Let's start with Gov. Brown’s response. I wonder if he realizes that if the private sector was actually dealing with this issue, the bills wouldn't have crossed his desk in the first place. Dads are more involved today than ever. We love our kids and we want to have all of the tools at our disposal that moms have to be the best parents we can be. Equal access to changing tables are a big part of the discussion.
#2 - Stop whining. There are a lot of establishments that don't have changing tables in their women's restrooms either. Do your homework. This initiative isn't about those places. What it's saying is if an establishment has a changing table in its women's restroom, there must be one in a men's restroom as well. Again, who in their right minds would be against this? Equality is the only thing we're asking for.
# 3 - I'm tired of people expecting the government to solve all of their problems by legislating everything. Similar to what I've said before, this is about equality. As a black man, I understand that without government intervention, I wouldn't have the same access to education, bathrooms, restaurants, employment, and housing that white folks have. Women have benefited from government intervention, LGBT citizens have as well. This is not a bad thing.
Putting changing tables in men's restrooms if one exists in women's restrooms is common sense. In the not-so-distant past, people could smoke cigarettes on airplanes. That sounds like the ridiculous thing ever now, but back in the day it was totally normal until the government decided to legislate against it. Why? Because it's common sense not to have people smoke on airplanes! Just like treating blacks like people instead of farm animals is common sense. Just like allowing women to vote is common sense. And guess what?
Sometimes you have to legislate common sense if the private sector won't do it on its own. The best part? America is a better place when equality is embraced in all aspects of society. Stop me if I asked this before, but who in their right minds would be against this?
Shortly after Governor Brown vetoed the bill, I enjoyed the most important professional event of my life: the launch party of my book, Daddy Doin' Work: Empowering Mothers To Evolve Fatherhood in Glendale, CA. My whole family was present (including my two lovely daughters), and many people drove for hours just to support me and my mission. Afterwards we decided to have a celebratory dinner at an unnamed restaurant and once we finished, my wife took my older daughter to the car and I was left with the baby.
The little one was extremely fussy and after smelling her bottom, I could figure out why. The kid had a horrible blowout diarrhea diaper. Not to be too graphic here, but it was so bad that it was leaking all over my business suit. I had to act quickly, so I rushed her to the men's restroom assuming that there would be a changing table in there. This was a relatively new restaurant, after all.
No changing table.
At this point, my whole right sleeve was covered in baby poop and my daughter was losing her mind. There was no time to check what the situation was like in the women's room across the hall. This had to be taken care of immediately. So I put my beloved baby on my changing mat on the bathroom floor and handled the diaper.
As I was changing her, I thought, "I just spoke to a packed house about the importance of evolving fatherhood an hour ago, and here I am changing a diaper on a filthy bathroom floor while I'm covered in human excrement. What's going on here?" That moment was a stark reminder that we still have a long way to go. No good dad is immune to this. We've all walked into a restroom with our babies and found no changing tables. Enough is enough.
Parents all over America looked to see if California would be the trailblazer in this effort and my home state completely dropped the ball. Nevada is now onboard to with its own bill and I will do everything I can to ensure it gets passed. We'll make sure the media is constantly aware of how important this is. We'll turn this into an unstoppable movement until we get what we want. Equality.
To many people, I'm probably just another loudmouth on the internet trying to get people riled up — but this isn't about me. My diaper changing days are over. This is about the younger generation of dads coming up who are so excited to be involved as fathers, but will be demotivated when the private sector doesn't step up by allowing equal access to changing tables. It is straight up discrimination — plain and simple.
If this legislation doesn’t pass, establishments will have to deal with the drama that comes from dads changing babies on their dinner tables or in their women's restrooms. Is it really worth all of that? Sure, we can all just stop going to these places and giving them our hard earned money, but let's be real — once their kids aren't diaper-changing age anymore, it doesn't become an issue to those parents. And guess what? They're right back to giving these places their cash as if it wasn't even an problem in the first place. The lesson is never learned and the cycle continues.
But the fact that California failed to pass these bills showed how needed this legislation actually is. Will Nevada learn from its neighbor’s mistake and be a trailblazer for the nation?
We won’t have to wait too long to find out.
Doyin Richards is a speaker, author, and the founder of Daddy Doin' Work.