The “transgender bathroom” Initiative 1515 is the wrong direction for Washington.
IF a signature gatherer outside your grocery store asks you to sign Washington state’s “transgender bathroom” Initiative 1515, stop for a moment and think about what putting it on the November ballot means.
The initiative concocts a scenario in which transgender people need their bathroom habits policed. It strips the liberty and dignity of people doing their business in a bathroom matching their gender identity, while putting schools, public universities and even private businesses in a bizarre position to ensure a person’s bathroom choice matches his or her anatomy.
It would amend the state’s landmark 2006 anti-discrimination law and pre-empt municipal ordinances in Seattle, Tacoma and other cities. These laws have functioned as intended, until socially conservative lawmakers this year ginned up absurd, fantastical scenarios about transgender people flashing their genitals at children in bathrooms and locker rooms.
I-1515 would put Washington in league with North Carolina, Mississippi and Indiana. Bigotry is bad for business, and corporate leaders in those states denounced the laws. In Washington, Microsoft, Vulcan and Google have already signed onto the anti-Initiative 1515 campaign, Washington Won’t Discriminate.
As if those aren’t enough reasons to turn and run from I-1515 signature gatherers, this measure would endanger an estimated $4.45 billion in federal funding for state schools and public universities, according to an analysis by the UCLA School of Law’s Williams Institute.
The validity of that analysis was confirmed last week when the U.S. Department of Justice notified North Carolina that its law violated the U.S. Civil Rights Act and would result in a loss of federal funding. North Carolina has doubled down on discrimination and is suing the Department of Justice. If I-1515 is put on the ballot, Washington could be forced to stand with North Carolina.
To enforce this discrimination, I-1515 would open schools to lawsuits. Penalties of $2,500, plus psychological or emotional damages, could be levied every time a student encountered a transgender person in a bathroom.
Should this initiative make the ballot this fall, it would add to an already divisive political campaign season. It sends a clear message to teenagers and young people who are wrestling with their gender identity that they are not just unwelcome, but shunned.
Washington voters were among the first in the country to affirm the rights of gay and lesbian couples to marry. That was a proud moment for this state.
In contrast, I-1515 would be an utter embarrassment, an economic disaster and an immoral endorsement of blatant discrimination.