I-1515 Sets off Debate Over Restricting Bathroom Access

Just Want Privacy, the campaign promoting Initiative 1515, is pushing for the measure to be on Washington State’s ballot in the fall. I-1515 is similar to North Carolina’s controversial HB-2 bill, repealing pro­tections for Transgender people. The backers of I-1515 claim it is about privacy and safety.

According to the ballot measure’s summary, it would “…amend the Law Against Discrimination to state that, with exceptions, covered public and private entities may restrict access to ‘private facilities’ to ‘biologically’ male or female individuals regardless of their gender identity and limit state and local regulations governing gen­der-identity discrimination. It requires that public-school bathrooms and locker rooms open to multiple people be sex segregated, and authorizes law­suits against schools that grant stu­dents access to those facilities based on gender identity.”

For the last 10 years the Washing­ton Law Against Discrimination (WLAD) has prohibited discrimina­tion based on “gender expression or identity.” The non-discrimination law in place has protected Transgender individuals from discrimination in housing, jobs, public places, violence, harassment, etc.

WLAD defines gender expression or identity as “having or being per­ceived as having a gender identity, self-image, appearance, behavior, or expression, whether or not that gender identity, self-image, appearance, be­havior, or expression is different from that traditionally associated with the sex assigned to that person at birth.” Transgender individuals are protected under this definition.

Five cities, including Tacoma, have passed their own laws prohibiting dis­crimination based on “gender expres­sion or identity.” The City of Tacoma bars discrimination in housing, em­ployment, education, and in places of public accommodation. They join Seattle, Burien, Olympia, and King County.

Washington falls under the juris­diction of the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, who have ruled that trans­gender people are protected from sexual harassment and discrimination based on their gender expression or identity under the federal Title VII law. The federal law also prohibits dis­crimination in employment.

Washington Won’t Discriminate— the coalition opposed to I-1515—is urging residents to oppose the initia­tive that would take away Washington’s non-discrimination protections that have been in place for 10 years.

Major companies such as Micro­soft, Google, and Vulcan, have en­dorsed Washington Won’t Discrimi­nate. The campaign has also garnered support from various clergy members, State Senator Jamie Pedersen (D-Se­attle), Rep. Laurie Jinkins (D-Tacoma), and transgender-community advo­cates among many others.

UCLA’s Williams Institute con­ducted a study, released at the begin­ning of this month, analyzing the fis­cal implications of I-1515. The ballot initiative would not only impact an estimated 26,400 transgender people in the state, but could risk a projected $4.5 billion in annual funding to schools and other state and local gov­ernment entities.

According to the study, I-1515 would be in direct violation of at least seven federal laws: Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, Ex­ecutive Order 13672, the Workforce Innovation and Opportunities Act, the Violence Against Women Act, the Af­fordable Care Act, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the Hous­ing Act of 1949.

As a result, these violations would threaten a number of federal funding sources. It includes: up to $3.3 billion in student loan and college funding, federal funding lost for Washington’s housing, health and human services programs, and $1 billion lost in K-12 school funding amongst a number of other federal funding sources.

These threats to funding could be­come a reality if Just Want Privacy successfully obtained the number of signatures needed for ballot place­ment, and voters passed the measure. As in North Carolina, the economic consequences do not end at federal funding. It has the potential to drive away billions in economic develop­ment for businesses, tourism, and conventions.

Rev. Bishop Kirby Unti of the Evan­gelical Lutheran Church in America, who opposes the initiative, says, “I’m deeply troubled by I-15I5, which would roll back important non-dis­crimination protections for our trans­gender neighbors in Washington. We’re all God’s children—including people who are transgender—and we should all be treated equally under the law.”

Just Want Privacy needs 246,372 signatures by July 8 for the measure to be placed on the ballot in November.

To find out more information, visit: washingtonwontdiscriminate.com

Trans Bill (print)


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