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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, January 13, 2017 - Volume 45 Issue 02
They're baaack! Backholm group files new bathroom initiative
Section One
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They're baaack! Backholm group files new bathroom initiative

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

Just Want Privacy - the group that brought us I-1515 last year - has filed a new initiative aimed at preventing Transgender Washingtonians from using gender-appropriate restrooms.

Although the group is still headed by veteran anti-LGBT extremist Joseph Backholm, the paperwork for the as-yet-unnumbered initiative was filed on January 9 by three women: Kaeley Triller Haver, Kristi Merritt, and Cassandra Nelson.

The new initiative is essentially a retread of I-1515. It would add language to the state's civil rights law that would prevent Trans people, and especially students, from using restrooms or locker rooms that correspond to their gender identity.

In fact, the initiative would throw the whole idea of gender self-identification out the window and base gender solely 'upon the person's sex or gender as determined or that existed biologically or genetically at the time of a person's birth.'

While the initiative promises to make accommodations for 'students who consistently assert to school officials that their gender identity is different from their birth sex or gender, and whose parent or legal guardian provides written, signed consent to school officials,' it contains the important qualification 'if one is available,' thus allowing school districts to evade their responsibilities to Trans students.

It also adds that 'in no event shall that accommodation be access to a private facility such as a student restroom, student bathroom, student locker room, student shower room, or student changing area designated for use by students of the opposite sex or gender while students of the opposite sex or gender are or could be present at the same time.'

In other words, the promised accommodation is no accommodation at all.

The proposed initiative also allows students to sue schools for up to $5,000 anytime a Trans student uses a bathroom consistent with their gender identity, and would 'allow businesses to determine their own bathroom and locker room policies,' allowing businesses to discriminate against Trans people at will.

Although I-1515 failed spectacularly - it never even qualified for the ballot - Backholm's group believes they can win this time.

Identifying herself as the group's communications director, Triller Haver blamed their 2016 defeat on lacking enough time to accumulate the petition signatures necessary to get on the ballot. This time will be different, she vowed.

'We came really close last year,' she said. 'We know the people want to sign it; it's just a matter of getting it to them in time.'

The initiative would have the same effect as the already-filed bill HB 1011, but Backholm's group said it would not wait to see the outcome in the state legislature as it did last year.

'While we are fully supportive of these measures and encourage you to contact your legislators to voice your enthusiasm for them, we lost valuable time last year waiting for a legislative fix to this problem, and we are not interested in making that mistake again,' a statement on the group's website says.

Meanwhile, human rights activists said they were ready for the new challenge.

'Washingtonians sent a clear message last year - we won't discriminate,' said Seth Kirby, a Transgender man and chair of Washington Won't Discriminate.

'Voters didn't buy the pitch that repealing our state's nondiscrimination protections for Transgender people would somehow make us safer. Washingtonians value fairness and equality, and we believe that everyone in our state should be able to earn a living, frequent a business, earn an education, and raise a family free from the fear of discrimination.'

'Washington is a state defined by values of inclusiveness and fairness, and these values will always prevail because they are on the right side of history,' the Pride Foundation's Kris Hermanns said.

'Using fear and lies, this initiative will allow legally sanctioned harassment and interrogation specifically targeting transgender Washingtonians. Our community has come together time and again to fight for the advances we've made up to now - and we won't stop fighting until we preserve the legal equality we all deserve.'

According to Washington Won't Discriminate, more than 51,000 have become members since the group was launched last year.

Also, the groups says, more than 200 big and small businesses and labor unions from around the state quickly rallied to oppose I-1515, including Amazon, the Washington State Labor Council, Microsoft, Group Health, Google, Facebook, Expedia, Vulcan, AT&T, Dow Chemical, the Washington Education Association, and many more.

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