Monday, 14 Republican state representatives pre-filed House Bill 1011, which would repeal anti-discrimination protections for transgender Washingtonians in cases of gender segregated facilities like locker rooms or public restrooms.
HB 1011 is just the latest iteration of a long-running conservative backlash against a 2006 anti-discrimination law (which, incidentally, was sponsored by Seattle Mayor Ed Murray, then a senator). The backlash started last year, after the state Human Rights Commission ruled that the 2006 law includes protections for trans people who use locker rooms etc. The ruling incensed social conservatives who believe that anti-discrimination protections for transgender people amount to a “war on gender,” as Family Policy Institute director Joseph Backholm put it.
This past January, Pam Roach and some other state senators responded by introducing a bill that would have amended state law to allow discrimination against transgender people at privately owned locker rooms etc. SB 6548 read in part: “Nothing in this chapter grants any right to a person to access a private facility segregated by gender, such as a bathroom, restroom, toilet, shower, locker room, or sauna, of a public or private entity if the person is preoperative, nonoperative, or otherwise has genitalia of a different gender from that for which the facility is segregated.”
That bill floundered, so this summer Backholm and the FPI tried to get enough signatures to put I-1515 on the state ballot. I-1515 reads like SB 6548 on steroids. In addition to allowing discrimination against transgender people at privately owned locker rooms etc., it would have required public schools to force transgender students to use the wrong locker room (or put them in seperate facilities). Schools which didn’t comply would become liable in court.
Opposed by sexual assault and domestic violence groups, I-1515 failed to gather enough signatures to qualify for the ballot, but Gender Justice League director Danni Askini told us to keep worrying. “There’s going to be another ballot attempt in the spring,” she said. “We know they’re coming back.”
They’ve come back—to the statehouse. Like SB 6548 and I-1515 before it, HB 1011 includes the same language allowing genital-based discrimination: “Nothing in this chapter grants any right to a person to access a private facility” and so on. The bill clarifies that children and people with disabilities may enter a locker room etc. of the opposite gender if they are accompanied by an caretaker of that gender. Unlike I-1515, HB 1011 does not require discrimination against transgender students at public schools.
We editorialized against I-1515 in July, shortly before it died: “If [campaigners] cannot submit enough signatures to put I-1515 on the ballot, it will provide yet more proof that the fear and loathing of transgender people that Backholm and his ilk espouse does not represent us as a people…For all intents and purposes, the debate will be over.” HB 1011 is unlikely to become law because Democrats hold the governor’s office and a House majority, but clearly the debate over discrimination in Washington is far from over.