Over 10,000 people have signed a petition calling on Washington state to repeal a recently passed "first-of-its-kind" statewide regulation that makes it illegal for businesses and institutions to prohibit transgender individuals from using the bathrooms and changing areas designated for the opposite biological sex.
The Washington Human Rights Commission clarified the state's human rights code by passing WAC 162-32 in December mandating that all places of public accommodations provide access to sex-assigned bathrooms, shower facilities, locker rooms and other changing areas to individuals based on their gender identity and gender expression.
Since the regulation also prohibits places of public accommodation from asking "unwelcome questions about an individual's sexual orientation," opponents of the rule argue that the rule makes it easier for pedophiles and sex abusers to access women's bathrooms and put women and girls in danger.
According to the social conservative advocacy group Family Policy Institute of Washington (FPIW), the Human Rights Commission has been granted rulemaking authority by Washington's legislature. This means that the transgender human rights regulation the commission passed in December legally went into effect without the approval of the state legislature.
The institute launched a petition calling for the government to repeal the "dangerous" policy. As of the time of publication, 10,613 people have signed the petition.
"Not only does this new mandate require people to completely ignore biology and reasonable concern for safety in private places, but it also restricts an individual's ability to question the motives of an individual entering those facilities," the petition argues. "This policy sets dangerous precedent."
"Women must get comfortable with the idea that an individual with male anatomy, even in an aroused state, can change clothes next to them in a locker room, so long as that individual claims to feel like a woman internally," the petition adds. "This rule makes what is illegal on the street, legal in locker rooms and showers. And it must be stopped."
The petition claims that because of the rule, businesses who try to protect the safety of their patrons could face severe legal action, while school officials lose the ability to protect their students.
"Business owners run the risk of being sued if they speak out to protect the privacy of their customers," the petition states. "Coaches and gym teaches are no longer able to make sure their athletes are able to shower and change their clothes in a safe setting."
The human rights commission met in late January to hear public concern about the regulations. However, the commission was not persuaded to repeal its rules. Although the human rights commision has been given rulemaking authority, the open-bathrooms regulation can be repealed through the state legislature.
"The concern related to the rule is not that all transgendered people are predators," the petition states. "The concern is that the rule creates opportunities for those who are."
According to FPIW's communications director Zach Freeman, three separate bills have been introduced by Washington lawmakers that would essentially repeal the rule on open bathrooms.
In a post on the FPIW website, Freeman explains that a bill introduced by Republican Sen. Doug Ericksen has made the most progress thus far. The bill would not only repeal the open bathrooms provision but would also remove the human rights commission's rulemaking authority.
Although Freeman states that the bill is far from becoming a law, he expects that there will eventually be a vote on Senate floor.
"All of the bills focused on this effort contain provisions to repeal the dangerous policy enacted by the Human Rights Commission," Freeman wrote. "Even if one or all of these bills passed through both chambers, they must be signed into law by Governor Jay Inslee, who, while he has declined to comment, has not been sympathetic of public safety concerns."