Initiative 1515, which would restrict bathroom access for transgender people, isn’t on the November ballot yet. But the opposition is in place.
Initiative 1515 may not be on the ballot in Washington state yet, but the measure to restrict bathroom access for transgender people is already drawing well-organized resistance.
A crowd of about 150, gathered at Renton First United Methodist Church, heard Thursday from speakers warning that I-1515 would increase discrimination and could lead Washington into a national backlash similar to what North Carolina and Mississippi are facing after transgender restrictions were enacted there.
Washington Won’t Discriminate, the campaign against I-1515, has been endorsed by Google, Microsoft and Vulcan, among others. Appearing Thursday in support of the campaign were clergy members, state Sen. Jamie Pedersen, D-Seattle, Rep. Laurie Jinkins, D-Tacoma, and transgender-community advocates, among others.
In the audience was Sen. Joe Fain of Auburn, one of three Republicans who crossed the aisle this year to defeat a bill that would have rolled back a state rule guaranteeing transgender bathroom access.
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Initiative 1515 would “not only encourage more discrimination and harassment of transgender people in our community,” Seth Kirby, chair of Washington Won’t Discriminate, told those gathered, but also would “have serious financial and legal consequences” for the state and taxpayers.
About 246,000 valid signatures are needed by July 8 to get I-1515 on the ballot for the November election.
Kaeley Triller Haver, communications director for Just Want Privacy, the campaign promoting I-1515, said signature-gathering began about a week ago.
I-1515 would amend the state’s discrimination law so that public and private entities could restrict access to “private facilities” to “biologically” male or female individuals regardless of their gender identity, according to the ballot measure’s summary.
It also calls for limiting state and local regulations overseeing gender-identity discrimination and allowing lawsuits against schools that permit access to facilities based on gender identity.
The proposal comes after a regulation by the state Human Rights Commission guaranteed access to restrooms, locker rooms and similar facilities according to a person’s gender identity. The rule affects public and private buildings, including stores, schools, restaurants and most places of employment.
The commission has said its rule was just a clarification of existing state law. But it sparked a backlash among conservatives and others who said they feared such access could allow sexual predators to more easily enter bathrooms and potentially harm women or children.
Triller Haver called the rule “bad policy.”
The Just Want Privacy campaign includes executive leaders of the Family Policy Institute of Washington and Washington Women’s Network.
Triller Haver described I-1515 as not as sweeping as the laws enacted in North Carolina and Mississippi, adding that she didn’t anticipate a backlash if I-1515 became law.
John Lovick, a former Snohomish County sheriff and county executive, told those gathered in Renton that “passing I-1515 and repealing nondiscrimination protection for transgender people will not make us safer.”
Talk of an initiative campaign bubbled up earlier this year, after a GOP-sponsored bill in the state Senate to repeal the Human Rights Commission rule failed. In that vote, a handful of Republicans joined most Democrats in opposing it.