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No, men can’t enter women’s locker rooms, state agency behind transgender rule says

Opponents of a new state rule allowing transgender people to access to restrooms and locker rooms of their gender identity rally against the policy at the state Capitol Feb. 15.
Opponents of a new state rule allowing transgender people to access to restrooms and locker rooms of their gender identity rally against the policy at the state Capitol Feb. 15. sbloom@theolympian.com

The state’s Human Rights Commission wants to be clear: A new rule allowing transgender people to use restrooms that match their gender identity does not permit men to undress in women’s locker rooms.

The agency sent out a news release Friday responding to a recent incident in which a man undressed in a women’s locker room in Seattle. According to the news release, the man refused to leave, citing the state’s new rule about transgender restroom access, but he never identified himself as transgender.

State officials said the man’s behavior isn’t permitted under the recent regulation approved by the Human Rights Commission. The new rule, which took effect Dec. 26, says transgender people in Washington can’t be forced to use a restroom or locker room that is inconsistent with their gender identity.

Opponents of the rule have said the policy threatens the privacy of women and children, while providing cover for sex offenders who might want to enter locker rooms to prey on members of the opposite sex.

On Friday, the Human Rights Commission characterized the man’s actions in the Seattle locker room as an attempt “to make some kind of misguided point” about the new state rule and “to make the women and girls in the restroom upset and uncomfortable.”

“His behavior is inexcusable and reprehensible. And it is absolutely not protected under the law,” said the news release from the commission’s executive director Sharon Ortiz.

“Men cannot go into the women’s locker room, as this man claimed he had the right to do,” the news release said. “Only women – including transgender women – can go into the women’s locker room.”

A spokesman for Seattle Parks and Recreation, which operates the pool where the incident occurred last week, said Friday that the agency had no comment on the Human Rights Commission’s statement.

In its news release, the commission said it is a misconception that the state’s new policy doesn’t allow a business owner or employee to question people about why they are using a certain locker room.

“If a business has a reasonable belief that a person is in the wrong place, there is no rule that states that the person cannot be questioned and required to leave,” the commission said.

An attempt to repeal the new rule failed in the Senate earlier this month, while other legislation aimed at rolling it back also has failed to advance.

Groups such as the Family Policy Institute of Washington want to place a citizen initiative on the November ballot that would repeal the policy on transgender restroom access.

A site for the proposed initiative notes, “Thousands of Washingtonians have expressed concern about the unintended risks this rule places on women and children in our state.”

 

Melissa Santos: 360-357-0209, @melissasantos1

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