A new proposed ballot initiative sets off a fresh clash over whether transgender people in Washington should be allowed to use the bathrooms of the gender with which they live.
OLYMPIA — The next chapter has begun in the clash over whether transgender people in Washington should be allowed to use the bathroom of the gender with which they live.
A group called Just Want Privacy on Monday filed a ballot initiative intended to roll back the open locker room and bathroom rule put in place by the state Human Rights Commission.
The commission’s 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 affects private and public buildings, including restaurants, schools and stores.
The commission has said the regulation was meant to clarify an existing rule.
But some conservatives have chafed at the rule, saying the commission didn’t have the authority to issue it. And they’ve argued that such access would allow sexual predators to more easily enter spaces like bathrooms and potentially harm children and women.
After a bill last February to roll back the rule failed a floor vote in the GOP-controlled state Senate, Just Want Privacy began collecting signatures for a similar ballot initiative.
That effort, I-1515, drew strong opposition from a coalition of public leaders, businesses like Amazon, Microsoft and Google, and community groups. It failed to get enough signatures to make the ballot.
Now, with nearly six months to gather signatures, Kaeley Triller Haver, communications director for Just Want Privacy, said the organization is confident it can put the question before Washington voters.
“We came really close last year,” said Triller Haver, adding later, “We know the people want to sign it; it’s just a matter of getting it to them in time.”
The initiative would require public schools to keep facilities according to the gender with which people were born, according to a Just Want Privacy news release. It would call for schools to provide “reasonable accommodations for gender nonconforming students” and would allow businesses to set their own locker-room and bathroom policies.
The proposed initiative comes as several state Republican lawmakers introduced HB 1011, which would also roll back the rule. That bill, however, is unlikely to get very far in the Democrat-controlled House.
A coalition of businesses, law enforcement, clergy and others that opposed I-1515 is already gearing up to fight the new proposals.
“Voters [last year] didn’t buy the pitch that repealing our state’s nondiscrimination protections for transgender people would somehow make us safer,” said Seth Kirby, a transgender man and chair of Washington Won’t Discriminate, in a news release.
“I don’t think Washington voters will enshrine discrimination,” added Danni Askini, executive director of the Seattle-based Gender Justice League.
For it to make the November general-election ballot, Just Want Privacy must submit 259,622 valid signatures from registered Washington voters by July 7, according to the state Secretary of State’s Office.