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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Spin Control

Transgender bathroom bill fails in Senate

OLYMPIA – Transgender people can continue to use restrooms and other public facilities based on the gender with which they identify.

The Senate narrowly rejected an effort to repeal a rule approved late last year by the Human Rights Commission which allows people to use public restrooms, bathrooms and locker rooms based on their gender identity, not their biology. On a 24-25 vote, senators sided with those who said transgender people pose no risk to others and the rule merely codifies a practice in place for nearly 10 years.

“Not one person has been harmed because a transgender person has used the bathroom of their gender identity,” Sen. Marko Liias, D-Lynnwood, said. Instead, they are the people who are most likely to be harassed and assaulted, he said.

Supporters of the bill said they weren’t suggesting transgender people were dangerous, but argued sexual predators could use the law to find victims.

“I don’t know of any transgender person who’s a sex offender,” Sen. Jim Hargrove, D-Hoquiam, said. “There may be other people who might be able to take advantage of it. I don ‘t know how you deal with it.”

But Sen. Jamie Pedersen, D-Seattle, argued the state already has laws to prosecute sex offenders, and they won’t be difficult to spot.

Sen. Doug Ericksen, R-Ferndale, the sponsor of Senate Bill 6443, said parents have a right to believe, when they drop their teens off at a gym, “the men will go into the men’s locker room and the women will go into the women’s locker room.” 

The rule didn’t have enough public discussion and needs a “time out”, he argued: “The Legislature needs to step in.”

The commission’s rule, which went into effect on Dec. 26, has been a hot button issue in the session. Ericksen’s bill is one of two that received committee approval and was sent to the Senate for a full vote. The other, which has yet to come up for a vote, requires a person to use a public restroom or locker room based on their genitalia, not their gender identity.

The vote on SB 6443 was a rare instance in which the Majority Coalition Caucus brought a bill to the floor that did not have enough support among its members to be assured of passage and Democrats were unsure of the outcome. Three suburban King County Republicans – Sens. Steve Litzow, Andy Hill and Joe Fain – voted against it while Hargrove and Sen. Tim Sheldon, a Democrat from Potlach who caucuses with Republicans, voted yes.

“We dodged a bullet,” Liias said after the vote, adding that he doubted the other bill will come up for a vote because SB 6443 failed.

Jim Camden
Jim Camden joined The Spokesman-Review in 1981 and retired in 2021. He is currently the political and state government correspondent covering Washington state.

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