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Transgender Rights | Public Accommodations | Rhode Island

Rhode Island Public Accommodations Q&A

What is a “place of public accommodation”?

Places of public accommodation are places that are open to the public and include, but are not limited to, stores, restaurants, bars, public transportation, garages, hotels, hospitals, clinics, rest rooms, barber shops, salons, amusement parks, gyms, golf courses, swimming pools, theaters, fairs, libraries, public housing projects, and so on (R.I. Gen. Laws § 11-24-3).

Does Rhode Island have an anti-discrimination law protecting transgender individuals from discrimination in places of public accommodation?

Yes.  Since 1995, Rhode Island has had a comprehensive anti-discrimination law concerning sexual orientation in employment, housing, credit and public accommodations and has included sexual orientation under its equal opportunity and affirmative action law.  In 2001, Rhode Island added gender identity or expression to each of these statutory protections (R.I. Gen. Laws, ch. 11-24 (public accommodations); ch. 28-5 (employment); ch. 28-5.1 (equal opportunity and affirmative action); and ch. 34-37 (housing and credit)).

Does it also protect people perceived to be transgender in places of public accommodation?

Yes.  The anti-discrimination laws define “sexual orientation” as “having or being perceived as having an orientation for heterosexuality, bisexuality or homosexuality and define “gender identity or expression” as including a “person’s actual or perceived gender” (R.I. Gen. Laws §§ 28-5-6(11)(gender identity or expression) and (16)(sexual orientation) (employment); 34-37-3(9)(gender identity or expression) and (15)(sexual orientation) (housing and credit); and 11-24-2.1(h)(sexual orientation) and (i)(gender identity or expression) (public accommodations)). Thus, if a person is fired because they are perceived to be gay (whether they are or not), they may still invoke the protection of the anti-discrimination law to challenge the firing.

What does the law say about discrimination in places of public accommodation?

Such places shall not “directly or indirectly refuse, withhold from, or deny to any … person any of the accommodations, advantages, facilities or privileges of that public place,” and shall not advertise or state that their accommodations are so limited, because of a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity or expression (or other protected characteristics) (R.I. Gen. Laws § 11-24-2).