Washington

Bathroom initiative won’t be on November ballot

A group that wants to repeal a Washington state rule allowing transgender people to use the bathroom of the gender with which they identify is trying once again to overturn that policy at the ballot.
A group that wants to repeal a Washington state rule allowing transgender people to use the bathroom of the gender with which they identify is trying once again to overturn that policy at the ballot. AP file, 2014

An effort to ask Washington voters about restricting which bathrooms and locker rooms transgender people can use has fallen short.

Supporters of Initiative 1515 did not collect the 246,372 registered voters’ signatures it needed to qualify for the election.

I-1515 would have asked voters statewide to allow public and private entities to bar people from choosing a bathroom by the gender with which they identify and to require public schools to implement birth gender segregation on facilities.

The campaign’s supporters said the restrictions were needed to prevent sexual predators from entering women’s bathrooms by claiming transgender status.

Secretary of State spokesman David Ammons said Thursday afternoon that I-1515’s supporters had canceled a Friday appointment to turn in their signatures before the afternoon deadline.

Angela Connelly of Tacoma, chairwoman of the Just Want Privacy organization that formed to support I-1515, said the group had collected more than 200,000 signatures in a three-month effort.

“We didn't quite make it,” Connelly said in an email. “Unfortunately we ran out of time.”

She and Joseph Backholm, a Just Want Privacy leader and director of the Family Policy Institute of Washington, issued written statements saying I-1515’s supporters would continue working to change state policy.

“Despite a tremendous effort in a short period of time by so many, it is clear that I-1515 will not be the vehicle by which this rule is repealed,” Backholm’s statement said. “But the open-bathroom rule remains terrible public policy. Women and children deserve privacy in intimate facilities such as locker rooms, bathrooms, or changing rooms reserved for women.”

The petition drive’s failure follows the narrow February defeat of a state Senate bill that also sought to restrict usage of public bathrooms and locker rooms.

Each effort aimed to roll back a state Human Rights Commission ruling which took effect in December. It said the state’s 2006 nondiscrimination law allows people to choose which bathrooms and locker rooms to use based on the gender with which they identify.

A press statement from Washington Won’t Discriminate, which opposed I-1515 on grounds it would restrict transgender rights, said allowing transgender people to choose their own facilities had not hurt public safety.

“As a transgender man, I’m encouraged that voters didn’t buy the pitch that repealing our state’s non-discrimination protections for transgender people would somehow make everyone safer,” Washington Won’t Discriminate chair Seth Kirby said in the statement.

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