On Monday, the United States Supreme Court decided not to hear a case over a transgender person’s access to public bathrooms. Some say that decision could elevate the battle over the issue in Washington state.
OLYMPIA — With the nation’s top court sidestepping the issue of transgender people’s access to public bathrooms, Washington state may find itself in the spotlight in this year’s debate over the issue.
On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court announced it would not hear the case of Gavin Grimm, a transgender Virginia high-school student who sued to be able to use the school’s boys’ bathroom.
The move comes not long after President Donald Trump canceled guidelines by the Obama administration intended to protect transgender students.
The actions could raise the profile of a proposed Washington ballot initiative for this November, I-1552, that would roll back a state rule allowing open locker rooms and bathrooms.
Most Read Local Stories
- Get ready for possible freezing temperatures in the Seattle area
- Did your ballot reach its destination? Here's how to track it in Washington state
- Health department releases COVID-19 vaccine distribution plan for Washington state
- Fall surge of COVID-19 is hitting Washington, state officials warn
- Coronavirus daily news updates, October 20: What to know today about COVID-19 in the Seattle area, Washington state and the world VIEW
“Washington State is now the 2017 battleground for transgender nondiscrimination protections,” Seth Kirby, chair of Washington Won’t Discriminate, a group opposing proposed Initiative 1552, said in a statement. “All eyes will be on us as we decide whether we will hold true to our state’s values of fairness, equality and freedom, or fall prey to scare tactics and fear mongering.”
Heather Weiner, a spokeswoman for Washington Won’t Discriminate, said that a Supreme Court decision “may have taken some of the steam from I-1552, either way.”
With no clear direction from the federal courts, Washington state voters could be the only in the nation to deciding on such a ballot measure, she said.
Massachusetts voters will face a similar decision — but not until 2018.
I-1552 is being brought by the group Just Want Privacy, which last year unsuccessfully tried to put a similar measure on the ballot to roll back a Washington state Human Rights Commission rule.
That 2015 rule guarantees people access to spaces like bathrooms and locker rooms of the gender with which they live — as opposed to the gender with which they were born.
The rule — which the commission has said just clarified an already existing regulation — affects private and public buildings, including schools, restaurants and stores.
But some conservatives have argued that the commission didn’t have authority to make that decision. And they’ve said that access would allow sexual predators to more easily enter spaces like bathrooms and potentially harm children and women — though such action is already illegal.
Joseph Backholm, chairman of the Just Want Privacy campaign, said he doesn’t see the Supreme Court’s decision as having much impact on the debate in Washington.
“This is a state law issue,” said Backholm, who is also president of the Family Policy Institute of Washington. “It is relevant only to the extent that there is no longer the threat of losing education money [under the Obama guidelines] if 1552 passed.”
Both Backholm and Weiner said they think it’s likely I-1552 will qualify for the ballot.