As advocates predicted, transgender rights in Washington have cropped up for another legislative session. For 27th District Rep. Laurie Jinkins, she’s optimistic House Bill 1011 will be as much a dud as similar pieces of legislation last year.
HB 1011 was prefiled in the Washington House of Representatives on Dec. 5, and its head sponsor is Republican 15th District Rep. David Taylor. Taylor did not respond to the Capitol Hill Times’ request for comment on the bill.
The legislation would allow for segregation in public and private bathroom, shower, sauna and locker room facilities based on gender, “if the person is properative, nonoperative, or otherwise has genitalia of a different gender from that for which the facility is segregated.”
“I don’t expect any different outcome in the House, nor do I expect any difference in the Senate,” Jinkins said. “I think at a certain level you can see the people have spoken on this issue.”
As chair of the House Judiciary Committee, Jinkins blocked four anti-trans bills from receiving hearings in 2016. She received the Power Award at this year’s Gender Justice Awards in Capitol Hill.
“It comes to my committee, I’m not hearing the bill,” Jinkins said of HB 1011. “I’m not interested in hearing bills that overturn our state’s anti-discrimination law.”
Washingtonians have been legally able to use the restroom matching their gender identity for more than a decade.
Jinkins also provided legal advisement for Washington Won’t Discriminate, an advocacy group formed in response to Initiative 1515, which would have restricted people from using any bathroom that didn’t match their gender at birth. The I-1515 campaign did not meet the threshold 246,000 signatures needed to place the initiative on the November ballot.
“This is really a distraction and a way to generate more hate here in our state,” said Seth Kirby, campaign chair for Washington Won’t Discriminate.
Since HB 1011’s early filing, Kirby reports more than 4,000 people have taken action against the legislation, either by signing the group’s online pledge, sending letters to lawmakers or making a donation toward fighting the bill.
“I don’t anticipate that the bill necessarily will go anywhere in the House,” Kirby said. “I do think there was a bill last session that had more discussion in the Senate.”
Senate Bills 6443 and 6548 were both considered and given a hearing during the last legislative session. SB 6443 was defeated by a vote of 25-24 last February. It would have made the state’s human rights commission repeal the right for people to use segregated restrooms matching their gender identity, then remove the commission’s rule-making authority on the issue of gender segregated facilities.
Washington Won’t Discriminate does expect there will be a greater push for an initiative similar to I-1515 this year.
“We knew that this would be something that the opposition would come back with in 2017,” he said. “They said so, and we need to be prepared.”
A large part of the grassroots work being done to combat anti-transgender legislation and initiatives has been educational.
“I think what we knew and worked on a lot during the past legislative session was educating people about who transgender people are and who our families are,” Kirby said. “It’s understandable that people don’t necessarily understand the experiences of a transgender person. They may not know that they know someone who is transgender.”
The Washington Safety & Access For Everyone Alliance (WA SAFE) formed during the last legislative session as a mobilization coalition that traveled the state, creating chapters in Vancouver, Spokane, Olympia and other parts of the state.
WA SAFE educates about the transgender community, and was heavily involved in Washington Won’t Discriminate’s Decline to Sign campaign, which provided people approached by signature gatherers for I-1515 with arguments for opposing the initiative.
Chapter representatives from across the state also rally in Olympia during lobbying days.
“We have a group of people from all across the state that can come with us to Olympia to lobby and talk to legislators,” said Jeremiah Allen, Pride Foundation Project coordinator.
Allen is also project coordinator for TRANSform Washington, a public education campaign that shares the stories of transgender Washingtonians.
“People don’t know that transgender people, they’re literally working with them, they’re part of the community,” Allen said.
While there are concerns about anti-transgender legislation, Allen said ballot initiatives are a larger concern because of the campaign language and “fear-mongering,” equating transgender people to sexual predators.
Having transgender people young and old sharing their stories, producing educational toolkits and running ads about transgender community members has been found to be the most effective way of challenging these measures, Allen said.
“That’s what really changes hearts and minds,” he said, “as opposed to arguments about initiatives.”
Allen said he hasn’t heard about a new initiative on the way, but it’s in the community’s best interest to prepare.
“Even if they’re not going to file a ballot initiative, people need to know that transgender people are part of our communities,” Allen said.