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Petitioners Gather Signatures for Wash. Version of 'Bathroom Bill'

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Thursday, July 6, 2017   

SEATTLE -- Petitioners have one more day to collect signatures for an initiative that would allow people to use only bathrooms designated for the gender they were assigned at birth.

Initiative 1552 would repeal the Washington Human Rights Commission's 2015 rule that guaranteed people access to bathrooms and locker rooms for the gender with which they identify. Opponents say I-1552 would reinstate discrimination against transgender Washingtonians, and compare it to the "bathroom bill" passed in North Carolina in 2016.

The group Just Want Privacy, which introduced I-1552, said it aims to keep Washingtonians safe. Heather Weiner, spokeswoman for Washington Won't Discriminate, said she supports that goal.

"Unfortunately, rather than actually addressing things that would make people more safe in public restrooms, it instead singles out one group for discrimination and increases fear and misunderstanding about what it means to be transgender,” Weiner said.

Washington Won't Discriminate has started its own petition to oppose the initiative.

I-1552 needs about 260,000 signatures by Friday to be on the November ballot. According to Just Want Privacy's website, that petition had more than 180,000 signatures as of June 30.

Just Want Privacy gathered signatures for a similar initiative last year, but failed to gather enough.

The movement for transgender equality has taken two big hits nationally since President Trump took office. First, the Supreme Court declined to hear a case from a transgender high school student in Virginia who sued for the right to use the boys' bathroom. Trump also rolled back Obama-era rules protecting transgender students.

But Weiner said opponents of I-1552 recently got an unlikely ally.

"One of the things that's really interesting and exciting is the fact that a former state Republican party chair, Chris Vance, this weekend came out against 1552. I think that's just amazing,” she said. "So, I would definitely highlight that."

Weiner also praised the work of organizations such as Transform Washington, which offers stories from transgender Washingtonians in order to cut through some of the misconceptions about their community.


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