A proposed initiative on the transgender-bathroom debate would be bad for schools, terrible for business and would put Washington in the vanguard of discrimination.
WASHINGTON does not want to be dragged back into the toxic policy and politics of the transgender bathroom debate. Isolating and shaming people for their sexual identity is antithetical to Washington’s values and history. It is also terrible for business, as North Carolina found.
An initiative campaign is currently gathering signatures with the goal of putting the state at the forefront of discrimination. The campaign for Initiative 1552 gained momentum last week with a $50,000 donation, enabling it to pay signature gatherers before the July 7 deadline for making the November ballot.
The word “transgender” does not appear in the initiative text, but the intent is clear. The initiative allows gender-segregated public and private bathrooms to be limited to the gender of a person’s birth sex and is intensely focused on public-school bathrooms.
Currently, schools make accommodations for transgender students and, despite some noisy objections, it has not proven to be a problem. I-1552 makes it a problem, putting school principals in an untenable position of matching students’ birth certificates with their genitals.
It encourages lawsuits against schools who fail to police their students, with $5,000 payouts, plus attorney fees and “emotional” damages. The financial incentives put a bounty on transgender students.
Outside of school, I-1552 repeals important state protections against transgender discrimination, and pre-empts local government from stepping in with their own protections.
The arguments for I-1552 stem from a state Human Rights Commission rule, which extended anti-harassment codes to cover transgender people. Backers of I-1552 justify it as a safety measure by talking about a creepy adult man in a woman’s wig attempting to commit voyeurism in a public restroom.
Rolling back transgender protections does not stop sex crimes; prosecution does. Rolling back protections enables harassment, bullying and discrimination against those who identify as a sex different from their birth.
Rolling back protections comes at a financial cost, too. North Carolina, trailblazer in transgender-bathroom discrimination, stands to lose an estimated $4 billion in business — from an NBA All-Star Game to a PayPal expansion — over the next 10 years.
Yet clones of the North Carolina law have popped up across the country, with mixed results. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott ignored the pleas of his lieutenant governor and business community and called a special session for next week to pass a transgender-bathroom law. But Montana lawmakers killed a proposed statewide vote, and South Dakota Gov. Dennis Daugaard vetoed a similar bill.
In Washington’s Legislature this year, a stack of anti-LGBTQ bills didn’t even get hearings. That reflects the state’s history of opposing discrimination based on sexual orientation going back to Gov. Booth Gardner’s executive order in 1985 banning workplace discrimination against gay and lesbian state workers. In 2012, Washington voters became one of the first to endorse same-sex marriage through a statewide vote on Referendum 74, which The Seattle Times editorial board strongly supported.
Washington business leaders — including Amazon, Alaska Air, Microsoft and Vulcan — have already stepped forward to condemn I-1552.
If I-1552 were to pass, it would be first transgender-bathroom law in the country passed on a statewide ballot, putting Washington at the vanguard of this toxic debate.
Discrimination is bad for schools, business and society.