The Senate failed to pass a bill Wednesday that would have repealed a rule allowing transgender individuals to use the restroom or locker room that matches their gender identity. The rule was adopted in December by the Washington State Human Rights Commission.
Senate Bill 6443 failed on a vote of 24-25, with three Republicans crossing party lines to vote against the bill with a majority of Democrats.
Sen. Steve Litzow, R-Mercer Island, Sen. Joe Fain, R-Auburn, and Sen. Andy Hill, R-Redmond, voted in opposition to the measure.
Sen. Jim Hargrove, D-Hoquiam, voted in support of the bill with the Republicans.
Litzow did not speak on the Senate floor, but release a statement saying that the bill would have undermined the state’s anti-discrimination law passed in 2006.
“Instead of targeting the rights of any minority who are protected under law, we must use this opportunity to affirm the rights and safety of all people,” Litzow said. “I hope today’s vote by the Senate makes it clear to transgender people that their elected officials strongly believe that discrimination is not acceptable.”
The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Doug Ericksen, R-Ferndale, said the public was not adequately notified that the state Human Rights Commission was going through the rule-making process on transgender restrooms. He says the public never got a chance to weigh in, and he only learned of it after the rule had already been adopted.
“I believe that it’s the duty of the Legislature to be the ones making the final decision on issues of this type,” he said. “It shouldn’t be left to a board or commission.”
Hargrove voted in support of the bill, but said he wasn’t in total agreement of the approach. “By voiding the rule, what will happen is that the courts will case-by-case decide how to apply this,” he said.
Hargrove said he’s mostly worried about criminals who could take advantage of the rule. “What I’m concerned about is that there will be a lot of sex offenders that will all of a sudden become transgender because it gives them the opportunity to get into our locker rooms,” Hargrove said.
Speaking against the bill, Sen. Marko Liias, D-Lynnwood, said that transgender people are the ones who need to be protected. He cited a survey taken in Washington showed that 60 percent of transgender individuals have been a victim of physical or sexual assault.
“If there was another population in this country where three in five were the victims of physical or sexual assault, there would be a revolution in the street,” he said. “That explains why we need rules in our communities to implement the law and protect people that are at risk.”