There has been a lot of press about whether transgender people can use the bathroom of the gender they identify with or must use the bathroom of the gender they were born with.

This is not about that.

While that discussion has dominated restroom discourse over the last few years, the laws covering public restrooms can be complicated.

First, in Texas, businesses open to the public, such as restaurants, stores, and other public facilities, are generally required to provide restroom facilities for their customers. The specific requirements may vary depending on the type of business and the number of customers they serve.

Under Texas law, public restrooms must meet specific requirements for safety and accessibility. Texas Administrative Code was last updated on February 10, 2023. Section 265.123 covers standards for toilet facilities and toilet rooms.

If you have ever gone to a public toilet and found no toilet paper, then that bathroom is operating illegally. The code states:

An adequate supply of toilet paper in a suitable holder shall be maintained for each toilet. Covered waste receptacles shall be provided in all toilet rooms used by women.

This applies to public restrooms. You cannot have your spouse arrested for taking the last of the tissue and not replacing it at home. Too bad. I think that needs to be against some law.

Other provisions of the law state:

(1) Toilet facilities shall be provided in separate toilet rooms for both sexes in all facilities where the public congregates. They shall be readily accessible to all users.

(2) Toilet facilities shall be water-actuated, chemical, or biological toilets. Other systems may be used only upon specific permission of the health authority having local jurisdiction.

I would watch out for chemical or biological toilets. That sounds like it could become a weapon of mass destruction, especially in restaurants serving chili.

The Code also states that each stall must have a door and latch. The walls must be at least four feet high. That will never be high enough in sports facilities catering to basketball teams.

interior of public restroom in seattle
Zhuo Feng

The Americans with Disabilities Act also makes it illegal for public bathrooms not to have handicapped-accessible facilities.

If you encounter a public restroom with odors, it may also be in violation of Texas law

While no specific law prohibits odors in public restrooms in Texas, they must comply with health and safety regulations. Businesses are generally required to maintain their toilets clean and sanitary. This means they must take reasonable measures to prevent offensive odors from accumulating, such as regularly cleaning and disinfecting the restroom, ensuring that the toilet bowls and urinals are routinely flushed, and providing adequate ventilation.

Toilet paper on the toilet bowl at home.
Rattankun Thongbun

Does this mean certain habitually stinky people can be banned? Just asking for a friend.

Photo by Chris Anderson on Unsplash
Photo by Chris Anderson on Unsplash

Graffiti in a restroom is also illegal in Texas. Writing it on the wall is illegal, even if it is a good limerick or just for a good time call.

Graffiti can be illegal for the owner of the bathroom as well.   A little-known fact, offensive graffiti can also be subject to civil liability if the business owner fails to remove it once it has been discovered promptly.

There are some other things I would love to see included in the law. Maybe it is time for our legislators to finally consider making it illegal for urinals not to have cakes and for public toilet bowls not to have blue water. The last thing we want is for out-of-state visitors to Texas to think we're not civilized.

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