A new state rule allowing transgender people to use restrooms and locker rooms that match their gender identity drew hundreds of demonstrators to the state Capitol on Monday, but they weren’t all on the same side.
About half of the 350 demonstrators protested against the rule, saying it makes it easier for sex offenders and predators to gain access to women’s locker rooms by pretending to be transgender.
A few hundred feet away, the other half of the demonstrators — about 175 people — staged a counter-protest to support the policy, which they said protects the rights of transgender people in Washington state.
The rule, which took effect Dec. 26, says owners of businesses and other public facilities can’t force transgender people to use a bathroom or locker room that is inconsistent with their gender identity.
This rule that is now mandated opens the door, literally, to pedophiles, to sexual assaulters, to rapists, to those who want to abuse.
Angela Connelly, president of Washington Women’s Network, who opposes rule allowing transgender people to use locker rooms consistent with their gender identity
Officials at the Washington state Human Rights Commission, which approved the rule-change in 2015, have said the rule clarifies an antidiscrimination law the Legislature approved in 2006.
An attempt to repeal the rule failed on floor of the Republican-controlled state Senate last week. Other proposals at the Legislature this year also aim to roll back the policy, but they are unlikely to advance in the House, which has a slim Democratic majority.
Opponents of the policy said they instead will seek to repeal the rule through a citizen initiative, which they hope could appear on the ballot in November.
“This rule that is now mandated opens the door, literally, to pedophiles, to sexual assaulters, to rapists, to those who want to abuse,” said Angela Connelly, president of the Washington Women’s Network, at Monday’s “Safe Spaces for Women and Children” rally.
“We are not talking about the transgender people,” Connelly said. “This is an attack on our civil rights.”
State Sen. Doug Ericksen, who sponsored the repeal effort that failed in the Senate, said he thinks a citizen initiative to reverse the rule could succeed, given the outrage he’s heard from his constituents.
We’re just going to the bathroom. And it’s a simple right — it’s not like we’re asking for any special favors. We just want to go pee.
Tali Jones of Organizing Trans Olympia, who supports rule allowing transgender people to use facilities that match their gender identity
“I think the people of Washington state are overwhelmingly on our side,” said Ericksen, R-Ferndale.
Meanwhile, other demonstrators Monday said the new policy helps protect transgender people from harassment and violence.
Elain Moria, a transgender woman who lives in Orting, said she fears how she would be treated by men if she were forced to use a men’s locker room.
“If I go into a male bathroom, I’m probably going to get beat up,” Moria said.
Others who attended Monday’s “Transmisogyny Counter Protest” said the rule doesn’t create any real danger for others.
If it did, the state would have seen a spike in sexual assaults in bathrooms after Washington’s antidiscrimination law was approved in 2006, said Tali Jones of Organizing Trans Olympia.
That hasn’t happened, she said.
“We’re just going to the bathroom,” Jones said. “And it’s a simple right — it’s not like we’re asking for any special favors. We just want to go pee.”