OLYMPIA, Washington, January 8, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) – Washington State will now require public and private buildings, including schools, restaurants, and other employers to allow individuals to use bathrooms and locker rooms of the opposite sex.
Having taken effect on December 26, the transgender bathroom rule was created by the State Human Rights Commission and has been in the works since 2012.
It eliminates a previous separate standard for schools, which allowed them to look at locker room use for transgender students on a case-by-case basis.
Human Rights Commission executive director Sharon Ortiz, along with ACLU staff attorney Margaret Chen, said the rule clarifies law that previously existed under state anti-discrimination law, according to a report from the local Fox affiliate.
Ortiz said that under that anti-discrimination law, sexual orientation is a protected class, like race, and this includes “gender expression or identity.”
Chen also dismissed concerns over the danger of opening bathroom facilities up to people of the persons of the opposite gender, insisting there are laws protecting against abuse of the transgender policy and that transgender people should be treated with dignity and respect like everyone else.
This did not satisfy opponents of the law concerned with privacy and safety, especially where students are concerned.
“Parents have a right to expect that when their children go to school, the boys will use the boys' locker room and the girls will use the girls' locker room,” Republican State Sen. Doug Ericksen said in a statement.
Republican State Rep. Graham Hunt plans to propose legislation next week that will allow businesses to maintain segregated facilities based upon an individual's genitalia.
Non-operative and pre-operative transgender individuals would have to use the restroom of their natural gender under the proposed bill, but those having undergone surgery to alter their bodies physically could have access to an opposite-sex bathroom.
Hunt told LifeSiteNews he has already spoken with a gentleman whose wife had the experience of encountering a naked male in the women's locker room upon turning around when she exited her shower at a local YMCA.
Hunt said the woman was told that if she was uncomfortable with this, she should find another part of the facility in which to dress.
Democrat State Rep. Laurie Jinkins said the concerns over transgender bathroom access were about fear-mongering, something Hunt disputes.
“It's clearly not,” he told LifeSiteNews.
Hunt pointed out that Jinkins has spoken in the press recently about ensuring that everyone feels safe when using public facilities.
“On that we absolutely agree,” Hunt said, in that the woman at the YMCA, and others like her, have the right to feel safe as well.
Family advocates criticized the state of Washington's new rule allowing transgender bathroom and locker room use in public facilities.
“Washington's new regulation on 'gender segregated facilities' shows just how extreme the demands of the transgender movement have become,” Family Research Council senior fellow for policy studies Peter Sprigg told LifeSiteNews.
He said further that perhaps the most extreme aspect of the new regulation is that even providing gender-neutral facilities to transgender persons would be forbidden.
“You may, however, offer a gender-neutral alternative to the person who feels uncomfortable dressing in the same facility with someone of the opposite biological sex,” Sprigg said. “This policy is absurd, and the state of Washington should act to overturn it.”
Correction: The rule applies to both public and private buildings, not just public buildings, as originally stated.