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First public latrines built, in ancient Rome; the shared, open-air facilities offered little privacy


The first sex-segregated public restroom on record was set up at a Parisian ball; chamber pots for each sex were provided in separate rooms


Tremont House in Boston becomes the first American hotel with indoor plumbing, including water closets located on the ground floor; the Astor House hotel in New York City, built in 1836, featured toilets on each floor


Massachusetts passes the first known U.S. law declaring that “wherever male and female persons are employed in the same factory or workshop, a sufficient number of separate and distinct waterclosets, earthclosets or privies shall be provided for the use of each sex and should be plainly designated”


In Plessy v. Ferguson, the Supreme Court rules that “separate but equal” racial segregation is legal; it led to segregated facilities from public bathrooms to parks


The majority of the U.S. urban population has access to running water, a prerequisite for indoor plumbing


The Regional Council of Negro Leadership encourages a boycott of service stations with “whites only” facilities; the campaign, led in part by activist Medgar Evers, promoted the slogan “Don’t buy gas where you can’t use the restroom”


The Civil Rights Act of 1964 bans segregation in public facilities based on race and national origin, requiring an end to whites-only bathrooms


The Occupational Safety and Health Administration is established; it mandates that employees have adequate restrooms, and when facilities must be “separate for each sex”


The ratification period for the Equal Rights Amendment expires; Phyllis Schlafly and the Stop ERA campaign had used the specter of unisex toilets to help stoke opposition


The Restroom Equity Act in Califorina requires new sports and entertainment venues to have adequate restrooms for women, a move to fix perennially long lines


The Americans with Disabilities Act requires steps to be taken to provide public-restroom options for people with disabilities


For the first time, the U.S. Senate provides a women’s restroom located close to the Senate floor


Ally McBeal’s fictional lawyers share a unisex bathroom, shocking some viewers (Calista Flockhart said at the time she wouldn’t be caught dead in a real one)


Following a civil rights investigation, the Arcadia, Calif., school district agrees to grant a trans student equal access to facilities and programs


Maine’s Supreme Court rules that the Orono school district cannot bar a transgender girl from using the girls’ room


The city of Charlotte, N.C., passes an ordinance to allow transgender people to use the restroom that matches their gender identities

MARCH 2016

Under Governor Pat McCrory, North Carolina’s House Bill 2 nullifies the Charlotte ordinance and prevents other localities from passing measures giving transgender people restroom access aligning with their gender

APRIL 2016

The White House adds a gender-neutral bathroom

MAY 2016

Attorney General Loretta Lynch announces a federal civil rights lawsuit against North Carolina over House Bill 2

This appears in the May 30, 2016 issue of TIME.

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