With a 4-3 vote Wednesday, a bill that would eliminate Washington’s new rule to allow transgender people to use bathrooms and locker rooms in public buildings consistent with their identity passed out of Senate.
The bathroom policy took effect Dec. 26 and Republican Sen. Doug Eriksen of Ferndale sponsored Senate Bill 6443 to eliminate it.
Chairman of the Commerce and Labor Committee Michael Baumgartner, R-Spokane, said anything who finds their vote of elimination as “some kind of judgment or castigation of the transgender community,” is wrong. He said many argued against the bill because some people might use it to sexually assault women.
Sen. Pramila Jayapal, D-Seattle, released a statement after the hearing Wednesday.
“Our job as lawmakers is to ensure the safety and liberty of every child and adult in this state,” Jayapal said. “To pass this bill into a law would be to put thousands of transgendered Washingtonians, including very young children, directly in situations where they are most vulnerable to attack. I am a parent, and I know what it is to fear for the safety of my child. But the truth is that there is no reason to fear transgender individuals – they are our daughters, sons, sisters, brothers and neighbors. Most important, we should never give in to stereotypes or misconceptions that play on our fears.”
Executive director of the Family Policy Institute of Washington, Joseph Backholm, worries what this means for the future.
“To my knowledge, this is the first time in the country that there’s been a statewide effort to mandate all public accommodations cooperate with the gender identity concept that somebody declares,” he said. “This is the next step in this war on gender.”
Rep. Graham Hunt, R-Orting, said he’s been getting complaints from elderly folks, people with special needs, concerned parents, transgender people who disagree with the policy and abuse victims.
“I’ve received emails from folks who have been abused and taken advantage of in intimate private settings because someone had access to a facility that they shouldn’t have,” Hunt said. “I don’t believe that most people who are transgender are trying to gain access for the wrong reasons, but we have to be careful for and what we have to prepare for those who are going to take advantage of these rules.”
Human Rights Commission director, Sharon Ortiz said the new rule was just a clarification as transgender rights are already protected under the 2006 Washington Law Against Discrimination.
According to a fact sheet on SB 6443, transgender people in Washington have been using restrooms and locker rooms matching their gender identity with legal protection for the last 10 years and there is no evidence that gender neutral bathroom rules have increased predatory activity. However, while it’s estimated 18.3 percent of women and 1.4 percent of women have been sexually assaulted, 66 percent of transgender individuals. have experienced assault.
The original rule allowing transgender people to use facilities that match their gender identity applied to businesses who employed eight or more employees and applied to places like schools, gyms, restaurants, etc. The rule does not, however, prohibit asking legitimate questions about a person’s presence in the facility nor does it prohibit any person from reporting suspected illegal activity or behavior.
Kathryn Mahan, who came out as transgender five years ago, fears her own safety if the bill is passed.
“If you pass this bill, it will be possible for anyone who doesn’t like me to harass me when I’m using the restroom,” she said. “Tell me, how do I prove that I have female genitals?”
Seattle Mayor Ed Murray said he is disappointed with the vote to advance the bill.
“I am deeply disappointed by this committee vote in favor of a bill that would turn back the clock in our effort to provide equality to transgender people and to support their safety,” he said. “This vote does not represent Washington state values. Thankfully the likelihood of this measure becoming law is extremely remote. We fought for decades to achieve civil rights equality for LGBTQ individuals, couples and families. This debate is over. We must not fight the culture wars all over again.”
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