Washington Won’t Discriminate
This story first appeared in the April 29th, 2016 issue of Seattle Gay News
by Shaun Knittel – SGN Associate Editor
On Thursday, a broad-based coalition of law enforcement officers, clergy, sexual assault prevention groups, businesses and many others working to block discriminatory I-1515 and protect freedom, equality, and respect for everyone, launched Washington Won’t Discriminate.
The campaign kickoff took place at 11 a.m. at the First United Methodist Church in Renton. The packed house included parents of Transgender kids, religious leaders, current and former elected officials, and more.
Washington Won’t Discriminate Campaign Chair Seth Kirby, told supporters via email, ‘Discrimination is not a Washington value. That’s why, for more than 10 years, our state laws have prohibited discrimination, including on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.’
‘But now, there’s an effort underway to gather voter signatures on I-1515, a ballot initiative aimed at rolling back legal protections for our transgender neighbors, family and friends,’ Kirby said. ‘Under no circumstances can we let a discriminatory, anti-LGBT initiative like I-1515 undermine the values that make Washington such a great place to live, work, and raise a family.’
Last month, anti-LGBTQ group, Just Want Privacy, filed proposed legislation that would force Transgender Washingtonians to use the bathroom of the gender listed on their birth certificate – regardless of how they identify. So, even if a Transgender man, who is let’s say, 45-years-old and has been living as a man for 20 years, wants to use the men’s public restroom in Washington state, the bigoted I-1515 dictates he should use the women’s restroom because he was physically born with female genitalia.
In order for I-1515 to qualify for public vote, the bigots will have to get 246,372 qualified signatures before July 8.
Washingtonians who oppose the discriminatory initiative are encouraged to sign a pledge to show support for the No On I-1515 campaign at http://action.wawont.org/page/s/pledge.
‘Opponents of LGBTQ rights are telling the same tales that have been pushed elsewhere – from North Carolina to Mississippi – that non-discrimination laws threaten privacy and safety,’ said Kirby.
Kirby is referring to Just Want Privacy’s argument that they are not out to discriminate against anybody; instead, they say, they just want to protect children against sexual assault. In other words, Just Want Privacy says that Transgender people using bathrooms with ‘little girls,’ means they are a threat to children somehow.
Of course, there is absolutely no evidence to back up this claim. There has not, in the last 10 years, been one reported case in Washington state or anywhere, of an actual Transgender person attacking a cis person – youth or adult – in a public restroom facility. Not to mention that crime statistics prove that Transgender people are overwhelmingly more at risk of attack when using any public restroom facility than to be a person perpetuating an attack.
At the Washington Won’t Discriminate campaign kickoff, Andrea Piper-Wentland, executive director of the Washington Coalition of Sexual Assault Programs, said, ‘Discriminating against Transgender people does nothing to reduce the risk of sexual assault.’
Piper-Wentland’s direct comment, combatting the notion that to use sexual assault to discriminate against people because of their gender has nothing to do with actually keeping anybody safe from sexual assault in a locker room or public restroom facility, was echoed by a number of sexual assault victim organizations when the issue was taken up by the Washington state legislature last session.
The fact is Transgender people face some of the highest rates of sexual violence in the country. Members of the LGBTQ community fear that I-1515 could put Transgender folks at even greater risk.
‘We’ve got to mobilize a groundswell of grassroots supporters – and fast – to keep discrimination off of Washington’s ballot,’ Washington Won’t Discriminate Campaign Chair Seth Kirby said in an email message asking folks to join the campaign April 28.
Kirby said Washington Won’t Discriminate will be tracking I-1515 closely and keeping supporters of Transgender non-discrimination updated at every step of the way. For now, supporters of No On I-1515 are asked to LIKE Washington Won’t Discriminate on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/WAWontDiscriminate/ and follow @NoDiscrimWA on Twitter to get live updates on the fight.