Cedar City Aquatic Center’s new changing room policy focuses on gender

A file photo of the Cedar City Aquatic Center, Cedar City, Utah, Nov. 4, 2020 | Photo by Jeff Richards, Cedar City News

CEDAR CITY — The Cedar City Council is expected to formalize a policy requiring that Cedar City Aquatic Center patrons use changing rooms and bathrooms designated for the gender listed on their government-issued documents.

This file photo shows the Cedar City Aquatic Center, Cedar City, Utah, June 2022 | Photo courtesy of Cedar City Aquatic Center, St. George News

Over the past several months, there were two instances in which aquatic center patrons believed people were using changing rooms based on their gender identity rather than the sex they were assigned at birth, City Attorney Tyler Romeril said at last Wednesday’s City Council meeting.

“So, as a city who owns public property and public facilities, we want to make sure that everyone feels comfortable and safe, their privacy is protected and they feel like they can use our facilities for the benefit of themselves and family members,” he said. “And so we thought it would be helpful to put a policy in place so that our patrons were all on the same page — and staff — so there wasn’t any confusion or misunderstandings.”

The city now requires that individuals use the changing room or bathroom that matches the gender they were assigned at birth, Romeril said, adding that the city will have reasonable accommodations available to those who feel uncomfortable doing so. The aquatic center is equipped with four gender-neutral changing rooms for those who wish to use them.

If a person is suspected of using a room that doesn’t match the sex they were assigned at birth, staff will ask them for government documentation, such as a driver’s license, birth certificate or passport, he said. Should the gender on their document not match the room they were using or if they don’t have documentation on hand, they will be asked to use a gender-neutral room instead.

Patrons who refuse to follow the requirement will be asked to leave the premises, according to the draft policy included in the Council Packet, which begins on page 191.

This file photo shows the Cedar City Offices, Cedar City, Utah, Jan. 11, 2023 | Photo by Alysha Lundgren, Cedar City News

Paul Bittmenn, the city manager, said that people wouldn’t be ID’d as they enter the building.

“It’s gonna be as conflict arises,” he said. “This gives staff a functional outline of what to do.”

Councilmember R. Scott Phillips expressed concern that the policy could “put staff in a difficult position.” But Ken Nielson, the city’s leisure services director, said it should be helpful as the previous instances occurred after 5 p.m. when full-time staff had already left for the day, leaving lifeguards and front desk staff to handle the situations.

The new policy will allow staff to “always be consistent,” he added.

Because this “is a fluid area in the law,” Romeril said he consulted with the attorney who works at the city’s insurance company to confirm his understanding of the law and researched other aquatic centers throughout Utah, finding that many had similar policies.

“We want to make sure that we’re not discriminating against anyone — that we’re giving reasonable accommodations to everyone,” he said.

The item was added to this Wednesday’s consent agenda and is expected to pass. The discussion can be viewed on the Cedar City Council’s YouTube channel at this link.

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2023, all rights reserved.

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