Anti-Trans Bill Dies in Statehouse, But More Threats Are En Route

A citizen’s initiative and a pending Supreme Court case threaten to gut discrimination protections for trans people.

A bill that would have repealed Washington state discrimination protections for transgender people died in a state senate committee last week. But human rights advocates aren’t popping the champagne just yet. The short and uneventful life of HB 1011 was just one in a series of fortunate and unfortunate events for transgender Washingtonians—a series that has not yet reached its conclusion, and could profoundly change the legal protections surrounding one of the state’s most vulnerable minorities. Here’s what happened:

Fortunately, public consensus on the status of transgender people began to shift in the last two decades from the cruel derision of Ace Ventura: Pet Detective to the stumbling tolerance of Transparent.

Unfortunately, in December Republicans introduced a bill in the state House of Representatives that would have repealed anti-discrimination protections for trans people in Washington.

Fortunately, that bill died in committee last week.

Unfortunately, that bill wasn’t the only threat to trans rights inside or outside of the Evergreen State. Also last week, the Trump administration sent out a memo reversing the Obama administration’s legal position that Title IX protections against sex discrimination apply to discrimination against transgender people.

Fortunatelly, that memo won’t hurt any students in Washington, because we have our own law against trans discrimination.

Unfortunately, Washington religious conservatives are currently gathering signatures for a ballot initiative which, if voted into law, would repeal that law’s protections against trans discrimination and also mandate discrimination against transgender students in public schools. (Fortunately, those conservative failed in an identical attempt last year; unfortunately, they started earlier this year and may well succeed in gathering enough signatures to get onto the ballot this fall.) Proponents of the initiative have insisted in the past that they are not targeting transgender people but rather sexual predators, though this characterization is plainly inconsistent with the actual text of the initiative.

And looming over all this is the pending U.S. Supreme Court case Gloucester County School Board v. G.G., in which eight or nine cisgender justices will debate which bathroom Gavin Grimm, a transgender boy attending high school in Virginia, ought to use. Ever since the Court ruled in favor of marriage equality for gay couples in 2015, the question of transgender access to restrooms and other gender-segregated facilities has emerged as a new proxy for the larger culture war between American social liberals and social conservatives. For better or for worse, the Court’s ruling in Glouster could resolve that question, or at least define the boundaries of future debate.

Gender Justice League executive director Danni Askini says human rights advocates are pleased by the death of the state House of Representatives bill. “This is great news,” she says. “This indicates that [state] senate Republicans…have come to realize that this is a loser issue for them—that the people of Washington state aren’t buying the red herring that transgender people are dangerous.”

But she worries that the aforementioned initiative could gather enough signatures to get on the ballot. “I’m not worried that we would lose” the actual election, she says, “but I do think it puts the [LGBT] community in harm’s way to even have our rights on the ballot box. It sends a signal that trans people are not wanted and are going to be singled out,” she says, and “sets a dangerous precedent that people can vote on other people’s rights.”

Trump’s anti-trans memo is also dangerously symbolic, she says. “It sends a signal to bullies that transgender youth are targets,” says Askini. “I think that’s disgusting.”

More in News & Comment

Protestors gather at SeaTac’s Families Belong Together rally. Photo by Alex Garland
Seattle’s Separated Children

A local non-profit houses several immigrant youths who were separated from their parents at the border. But for how long?

Nikkita Oliver speaks at a July 17 No New Youth Jail press conference in front of the construction site of the King County Youth Detention Center. Photo by Josh Kelety
King County Youth Detention Center Moves Forward Despite Opposition

As community criticism of the project mounts, King County tries to take a middle road.

Trouble in Tacoma

A cannabis producer has been shut down for “numerous and substantial violations.”

Between Seattle’s $15 minimum wage and the new no-poach cause agreement, Washington has been leading the nation in advancing fast food workers’ rights. Photo by Fibonacci Blue/Flickr
Washington AG’s Deal Grants Mobility to Fast Food Workers Nationwide

Seven fast food chains have agreed to end no-poaching policies that economists say cause wage stagnation.

The Carlton Complex wildfire burned in north-central Washington state in 2014. Photo by Jason Kriess/Wikimedia Commons
King County Burn Ban Starts This Weekend

Other counties across the state have already enacted similar restrictions.

Numerous complaints against King County Sheriff’s deputies for issues like excessive force and improper search and seizure weren’t investigated due to internal misclassification, a new report says. Photo by Oran Viriyincy/Flickr
Report Finds Complaints Against King County Sheriff’s Deputies Weren’t Investigated

An outside review says that allegations of excessive force and racially-biased policing weren’t pursued.

Last spring, Sarah Smith (second from left) travelled to Tennessee to meet with other Brand New Congress candidates including Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (right). Photo courtesy Brand New Congress
Can Sarah Smith Be Seattle’s Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez?

The 30-year-old democratic socialist is challenging a long-serving incumbent in Washington’s 9th Congressional District.

Dianne Laurine (left) and Shaun Bickley (right), Commissioners for the Seattle Commission for People with Disabilities, say that the city didn’t consult with the disabled community prior to passing the straw ban. Photo by Melissa Hellmann
Straw Ban Leaves Disabled Community Feeling High and Dry

Although the city says that disabled people are exempted from the ban, the impacted community says that businesses haven’t gotten the message loud and clear.

Most Read