OLYMPIA, Wash. — The Washington Human Rights Commission has issued statewide rules requiring that public facilities allow males who identify as female and vice versa be allowed to use the restroom that is consistent with their “gender identity.”
“All covered entities, except school districts or other primary and secondary schools, shall allow individuals the use of gender-segregated facilities, such as restrooms, locker rooms, dressing rooms, and homeless shelters, that are consistent with that individual’s gender identity,” the rules read.
“In such facilities where undressing in the presence of others occurs, covered entities, except for school districts and other primary or secondary schools, shall allow access to and use of a facility consistent with that individual’s gender identity,” they mandate.
The regulations, which took effect on Dec. 26, also state that if a person is uncomfortable with having a member of the opposite sex in the room with them, it is the person expressing discomfort who should be moved to a different restroom.
“If another person expresses concern or discomfort about a person who uses a facility that is consistent with the person’s gender identity, the person expressing discomfort should be directed to a separate or gender neutral facility, if available,” the section on “gender-segregated facilities” outlines.
The rules additionally prohibit employers from mandating that men who identify as women dress like men on the job, and vice versa.
“[T]his is the first statewide mandate that forces businesses to cooperate with a customer’s confusion about his or her gender,” Joseph Backholm, executive director of the Family Policy Institute of Washington, said in a blog post about the matter. “While we sympathize with individuals who struggle with gender dysphoria, it isn’t appropriate to deny all women and girls their right to privacy in response.”
He opined that new rules conflict with state law and urged residents to call upon legislature to undo the HRC regulations.
“This arguably creates a conflict with the state’s indecent exposure law…, which otherwise prohibits exposing yourself to others while ‘knowing that such conduct is likely to cause reasonable affront or alarm.’ Or maybe women no longer have the right to be alarmed at the sight of a naked man in the women’s locker room,” Backholm said.
“While this rule was created through rule making authority delegated to the Human Rights Commission, the legislature has every right to fix this,” he continued. “And they should.”
As previously reported, in 2012, concerns arose after a man who goes by the name “Colleen Francis” was reported to the police following complaints from parents whose daughters witnessed the man exposing his body parts by sitting naked in the sauna at Evergreen State College.
One report said that police were contacted by a mother whose 17-year-old daughter was “upset because she observed a person in the women’s locker room naked and displaying male genitalia.”
A coach also confronted the man and asked him to leave, as according to the police report, “she observed Colleen sitting with her legs open with her male genitalia showing.” But the college ultimately upheld Francis’ use of the girls’ locker room despite concern from parents.
“We have to follow a nondiscrimination policy with the state,” outlined spokesperson Jason Wettstein to reporters. “State law doesn’t allow us to ignore gender identity as one of the protected classes.”
Police Chief Ed Sorger contacted the district attorney to see if charges of indecent exposure could be pursued, but was advised that the case would be difficult to prosecute as criminal law is “vague” surrounding the matter.