Hersheypark: Transgender guests may use restrooms according to identity

(Associated Press/FILE)

HERSHEY, Pa. (WHTM) – Hersheypark has publicly declared its position on what type of restrooms transgender people can use.

The amusement park says guests and employees may continue to use restrooms with which they gender-identify, or they’re welcome to use a family restroom.

A statement released by Hershey Entertainment and Resorts Company spokeswoman Kathy Burrows says Hersheypark, “has and will always strive to accommodate all guests and employees – including members of the LGBT community – to ensure those visiting or working at Hersheypark are comfortable and feel secure.”

Hershey Entertainment and Resorts is the latest company to make a stand on the debate. The Target retail store chain this week, in a statement posted on its website, said transgender employees and customers can use the restroom or fitting room facility that “corresponds with their gender identity.” Starbucks and book retailer Barnes & Noble have similar policies.

North Carolina is facing backlash for a new law that prevents local governments from passing LGBT anti-discrimination protections and directing which bathrooms transgender people can use.

“We have some questions as to why they would be following a social trend that some parents might think would put their children at risk,” said Michael Geer, president and CEO of the Pennsylvania Family Institute, a Harrisburg-based organization that does research and education on issues that impact families in the state.

Their concern is that people with bad intentions will use the policy to their benefit.

“Ultimately, what this Hershey policy and what Target’s policies and what these laws are saying is anybody can have access to any restroom they want based on what they think is in their head,” Geer said. “Most people that we talk to, especially women, are very concerned about who is going to come in behind them.”

The ACLU doesn’t agree with Greer’s safety argument.

“The folks who don’t believe in equality are trying to fight back. They know they are losing and this is where they are hanging their hat. The real safety issue right now is that transgender people are more likely to be victims of harassment and violence,” said Andy Hoover, legislative director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania.

Will Hersheypark see any backlash over its transgender bathroom policy?

“Businesses recognize that to be competitive they have to be welcoming and open to everyone, and that’s exactly what Hersheypark is doing here,” Hoover said.

“To go this far, following pressure from outside groups, I think it will cause many families to wonder if Hersheypark is going to be on their destination list this year,” Geer said.

The full statement from Hershey Entertainment and Resorts follows:

Every year, the employees of Hershey Entertainment & Resorts (HE&R) welcome over 6 million guests from down the street and around the world. We recognize that the more perspectives we have within our company, the more welcoming we are to all those who visit and seek employment here. In fact, our company has four core values, one of which is “respectful of others,” which we define as treating all people with dignity, while respecting their differences and ideas. For decades, Hersheypark has been dedicated to the safety and security of our guest and employees. It is foundational to our brand. Additionally, the Park has and will always strive to accommodate all guests and employees – including members of the LGBT community – to ensure those visiting or working at Hersheypark are comfortable and feel secure. To that end, the Park will continue its practice of treating all guests and employees the same no matter race, ethnicity, sexual identity, etc. Guests and employees may continue to use the restrooms with which they gender-identify, or are welcome to use the many family restrooms available across the destination. For more information on our Diversity and Inclusion practices, visit http://www.hersheypa.com/about_hershey/diversity_and_inclusion/index.php.

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