Seattle-area chef John Howie made a donation to the Washington anti-transgender bathroom group Just Want Privacy this spring. He now says he's changed his views and asks for forgiveness.
UPDATE 3:30 p.m. Thursday: Seattle chef John Howie has apologized in an emotional video on Facebook, saying he’s changed his views on transgender bathroom laws after “a very eye-opening 24 hours.”
“I’m sorry to the people that I have harmed or negatively affected with my words and my actions,” Howie says. “It’s not who I am, and it’s not who I want to be.”
“My concerns about the proposed law were based on fear and not facts,” he acknowledges.
Visibly upset, he says he’s developed “a much better understanding of how this law would’ve effected many in the community, especially those in the LGBTQ community, and especially those who are transgender.
“I understand that, and I do not support… the proposed law, or would I ever, again, support a proposed law that would affect people negatively as this would have.”
Howie emphasizes that support of the LGBTQ community is integral to his company — “a part of who we are at our core… and it is who we are going to be from here on out.”
Looking pained, he says, “I have struggled greatly to know that my actions have hurt people that I love and care about. I promise in the future that I will be more diligent, that I will research more carefully, that I will understand the things that I choose to support and make sure that they are the right choice.”
He’s reaching out to LGBTQ leaders to achieve a better understanding of the community, he says.
And after the public outcry since the story below, he pleads to the community at large, “I ask that you would forgive me. It’s truly my belief that God loves all people, and that with love and respect, we can all live together.”
This puts Howie on the opposite side of the issue from Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson. On Monday, it was reported that Wilson and singer Ciara moved their wedding out of North Carolina due to that state’s anti-transgender bathroom law. Asked about the report today, Wilson said, “I just believe that Jesus loves all people. That’s honestly what I believe.”
Howie says he’s opposed to transgender bathrooms due to concerns about who could gain access to them. “I think that there’s a chance that the law could be abused by somebody,” he says. “I think somebody who is not transgender, a sex offender, could abuse the law — somebody who is just out to put themselves into a women’s, or a boys’, bathroom, for that matter.
“I have grandchildren that are going to be affected by this law,” Howie continues. “Sex offenders scare the living daylights out of me. I think pedophiles can take advantage of this.”
Asked about Russell Wilson’s reported decision to change the site of his wedding because of North Carolina’s anti-transgender bathroom law, Howie says, “I don’t know what it is for him, or why he’s doing whatever he’s doing. That’s his choice.”
He says that he doesn’t have suggestions on how to change the law. “I don’t know how you manage that or change that,” Howie says, “but I just don’t think you make it free and open.”
Earlier this month, Howie announced a new partnership with the Seahawks and CenturyLink Field management to provide some of the stadium’s food, including sushi at club-level concession stands and more items such as kale salad elsewhere.
Wilson and Ciara’s wedding planner recently shared that the couple originally planned to marry in North Carolina last month, but that “they called it off due to the transgender-bathroom laws.” The couple were wed at a castle in England instead.
The John Howie Restaurant Group includes Sport, near Seattle Center; John Howie Steak and Seastar in Bellevue; Beardslee Public House in Bothell; and In.gredients on the Microsoft Redmond campus. Howie is known for his philanthropy; his restaurant group reports that it has given more than $4.5 million to hundreds of charitable organizations since 2002.
Just Want Privacy, the organization to which Howie personally donated $1,000 in May, was responsible for Initiative 1515, a campaign to restrict bathroom and locker-room access for transgender people in Washington state. The initiative failed to make the ballot, with Just Want Privacy indicating it couldn’t gather the necessary 246,000 signatures. The campaign faced opposition on many fronts, including from Microsoft, Amazon, Google and Airbnb.