OLYMPIA, Washington, February 11, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) – A bill to reverse a public accommodations law that allows transgender people to use opposite-sex bathrooms and locker rooms was blocked in the state Senate – in part thanks to three Republicans who voted with the minority Democrats.
The law took effect earlier this year and drew a backlash from Republicans concerned about men pretending to be transgender in order to harass and assault women. The GOP has a slim majority in the state Senate, but the three Republicans gave Democrats a 25-24 victory.
The sponsor of the repeal bill, Sen. Doug Ericksen, told his colleagues that business owners are helpless under the existing law to protect women from assailants. “Under this rule, practically, what can he do to be able to protect his members that are uncomfortable?” he asked, according to The Associated Press.
Sen. Cyrus Habib argued that the transgender law protects “a civil right to be included,” and Sen. Pramila Jayapal said, “There have been no sex offenders that have been posing as transgender people to get into bathrooms.”
Some Republicans took issue with how the law was implemented – not via the legislature or a ballot referendum, but through the state's Human Rights Commission. Senate Commerce and Labor Committee Chairman Michael Baumgartner, who held hearings on Ericksen's bill, said he “certainly was disappointed in the rule because it definitely put people at risk” and criticized the commission for involving itself.
The official Senate bill report on Ericksen's bill says that current law – enacted in January – punishes anyone who “expresses concern or discomfort about a person who uses a facility that is consistent with the person's gender expression or gender identity[.]” Those who express issues with a transgender person's use of a facility “should be directed to a separate or gender-neutral facility, if available.”
Likewise, the law says, “Any action taken against a person who is using a restroom or other gender-segregated facility, such as removing a person, should be taken due to that person's actions or behavior while in the facility, and must be unrelated to gender expression or gender identity. The same standards of conduct and behavior must be consistently applied to all facility users, regardless of gender expression or gender identity.”
Both sides argued in the Senate bill report that their side's positions represents equality, safety, and fairness. The report shows that supporters of Ericksen's bill who were officially signed in but did not testify outnumbered opponents of the bill more than two to one.
The Senate's vote means the repeal effort is essentially dead in the water; the Democratic-controlled House is unlikely to consider the measure.
The vote count, along with names, can be seen under row 97 here. The full list of “yea” and “nay” votes is below:
Voting yea: Angel, Bailey, Baumgartner, Becker, Benton, Braun, Brown, Dammeier, Dansel, Ericksen, Hargrove, Hewitt, Honeyford, King, Miloscia, O'Ban, Padden, Parlette, Pearson, Rivers, Roach, Schoesler, Sheldon, Warnick
Voting nay: Billig, Carlyle, Chase, Cleveland, Conway, Darneille, Fain, Fraser, Frockt, Habib, Hasegawa, Hill, Hobbs, Jayapal, Keiser, Liias, Litzow, McAuliffe, McCoy, Mullet, Nelson, Pedersen, Ranker, Rolfes, Takko