Washington Senate Fails by One Vote to Repeal Controversial ‘Gender Expression’ Rule

Toilet1OLYMPIA, Wash. — The Washington Senate failed by a single vote last week to repeal a rule that required public facilities to permit persons who identify as the opposite gender to use the restroom and locker room that correlates with their preferred identity.

“All covered entities shall allow individuals the use of gender segregated facilities, such as restrooms, locker rooms, dressing rooms, and homeless or emergency shelters, that are consistent with that individual’s gender expression or gender identity,” Washington Human Rights Commission rule WAC 162-32-060 reads.

“In such facilities where undressing in the presence of others occurs, covered entities shall allow access to and use of a facility consistent with that individual’s gender expression or gender identity,” it says.

The rule had been issued as a clarification to the Anderson-Murray Anti-Discrimination Law of 2006, and as previously reported, took effect on Dec. 26.

Other regulations passed by the Commission last year 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,” one rule outlines.

Concerned about privacy and safety issues, Sen. Doug Ericksen, R- Ferndale, consequently proposed a bill that would have revoked the facility accommodations rule and prohibited the Commission from making any future regulations regarding transgender use of restrooms or locker rooms.

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“The Human Rights Commission shall repeal the rule currently codified at WAC 162-32-060 in its entirety. The human rights commission may not thereafter initiate any rule-making procedure that involves the subject of gender segregated facilities,” S.B. 6443 reads.

The proposal was debated before the state Senate on Wednesday, as lawmakers spoke out on both sides of the issue.

“I certainly was disappointed in the rule because it definitely does put people at risk,” Sen. Michael Baumgartner, R-Spokane, stated.

“There is no civil right to not be uncomfortable,” argued Sen. Cyrus Habib, D-Bellevue. “There is a civil right to be included, there is a civil right to equal protection, there is a right to dignity, and to the privacy of the individual.”

In the end, the bill failed by one vote 25-24. Three Republicans voted against the measure: Sen. Joe Fain, R-Auburn; Sen. Andy Hill, R-Redmond and Sen. Steve Litzow, R-Mercer Island. Two Democrats voted in favor: Sen. Tim Sheldon, D-Potlatch and Sen. Jim Hargrove, D-Hoquiam.

“Thank you to the 24 senators who voted to repeal a rule put in place by an un-elected board,” Erickson posted on Facebook following the vote. “This is not about bathrooms; it is about locker rooms and shower rooms. There will be an initiative filed to overturn this rule.”

Joseph Backholm, executive director of the Family Policy Institute of Washington, has been among the opponents of the rule.

“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 said in a blog post in December.

“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 stated.

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