by Shaun Knittel -
SGN Associate Editor
The I-1515 campaign, an effort to repeal Washington state's 10 year-old non-discrimination law protecting members of Washington's Transgender community, failed to turn in enough (246,372) signatures to qualify for this year's fall election ballot.
The WA Secretary of State's office announced late this afternoon that the I-1515 campaign cancelled its appointment to turn in signatures.
This is an important victory for not only the Transgender community, but for equality-minded people across the state. With Tim Eyman having already failed to qualify anything, the end of I-1515 means that for the first time in decades, there will be no right wing initiatives on Washington's statewide ballot come November.
'Washingtonians have sent a clear message - we won't discriminate,' said Seth Kirby, chair of Washington Won't Discriminate, the 'No' on I-1515 campaign. 'As a Transgender man, I'm encouraged that voters didn't buy the pitch that repealing our state's non-discrimination protections for transgender people would somehow make everyone safer. Washingtonians value fairness and equality and we believe that everyone in our state should be able to earn a living, frequent a business, earn an education, and raise a family free from the fear of discrimination.'
Just Want Privacy Campaign filed Initiative 1515, which, if qualified for the ballot and passed would have repealed sections, pertaining to Transgender and gender non-conforming individuals, of the Anderson-Murray Anti-Discrimination bill passed in 2006 protecting the civil rights of LGBTQ Washingtonians. Specifically, Initiative 1515 aimed to prohibit Transgender and gender non-conforming individuals from using restrooms in public, at work and at school that match the gender they live daily. The Just Want Privacy campaign is associated with the Family Policy Institute of Washington.
Joseph Backholm, who led the charge for I-1515, encouraged male signature-gatherers to enter women's restrooms to demonstrate the ramifications of the Transgender-rights decision earlier this year. Those reports angered many, including people outside of the LGBTQ community, because it demonstrated that Backholm was willfully and dangerously misrepresenting the intent of the law. Backholm dismissed it as a 'joke' saying, 'It was obvious to all that we are not seriously encouraging people to gather signatures inside restrooms.' The joke was certainly lost on the general public and the county sheriff, state attorney general, and LGBTQ activists, who warned that following women into bathrooms is illegal.
Already, Trans people in Washington are 'significantly more fearful' because of Backholm and the Just Want Privacy campaign, Danni Askini, executive director of the Trans advocacy group Gender Justice League, told The Stranger after Backholm made his 'joke.'
'There definitely is a sense that there's more attention on gender nonconforming people in public spaces,' Askini continued. 'People are afraid to participate in public or just go out in public. The campaign has really created a huge sense of fear that people are in danger, even if the law doesn't pass.'
The public, it would seem, has grown tired of the demonizing of Transgender people - which as far as crime statistics show is a complete misrepresentation of the truth. Just Want Privacy claimed that allowing Trans people to pee where they choose would open the door for male predators to enter into women's restrooms and locker rooms and assault women and girls with impunity. They spread those lies despite the fact that there's zero evidence of Trans people harassing people in bathrooms and despite the fact that offenses like sexual assault and voyeurism, in bathrooms or anywhere else, are already illegal. Additionally, it is important to note that Trans people are more likely to be survivors of assault. One in two Trans people are sexually assaulted or abused at some point in their lives, according to the Department of Justice's Office for Victims of Crime.
Despite raising a lot of money, the campaign working to take away rights of Washington Transgender folks couldn't get the correct number of signatures needed to qualify for the ballot - even though a tremendous amount of cash was spent on paid signature gatherers.
On Thursday, LGBTQ Allyship, the organization leading the 'decline to sign' campaign against I-1515, delivered over 1,000 signed postcards from community members who opposed I-1515. The activists filled a sparkly rainbow toilet bowl full of Trans justice postcards at Just Want Privacy's office door while a delegation delivered a message demanding that Joseph Backholm and the Just Want Privacy campaign 'Flush hate out of our state: Make restrooms safe for all!'
Washington Won't Discriminate ran a campaign that, at times, seemed silent to many in the community aside from sending out emails requesting money to fund the No on I-1515 campaign. Still, despite what some might have perceived to be a stalled campaign, they built a broad coalition of more than 500 law enforcement, clergy, business leaders, violence prevent groups and others to oppose I-1515 successfully. Since launching a little over three months ago the campaign reports that more than 51,000 people became Washington Won't Discriminate supporters, volunteers, and activists.
Additionally, more than 600 individuals donated to the No on I-1515 campaign at an average of $97/each. The campaign says that more than 150 big and small businesses and labor unions from around the state quickly rallied to oppose I-1515, including Amazon, Microsoft, Group Health, Google, Facebook, Expedia, Vulcan, AT&T, Dow Chemical, WA State Labor Council, Washington Education Association, and many more.
Faith leaders, including Evangelical Lutheran Bishop Kirby Unti, and law enforcement officials, such as King County Sheriff John Urquhart, raised moral and safety objections to I-1515.
Editorial boards, including the Seattle Gay News, Seattle Times, Everett Herald, The Olympian and Tacoma News Tribune, urged opposition to I-1515.
Like Washington, more than 200 cities and counties and 18 states have nondiscrimination laws protecting Transgender people's access to facilities consistent with the gender they live every day - without negative impacts on public safety.
'I've devoted my career to preventing sexual violence in our community and there is nothing more important to me than ensuring our community is safe. I'm proud that voters declined to sign on I-1515, an initiative which would have done nothing to make us safer and instead would have caused serious unintended consequences for the privacy and safety of all of us by encouraging more discrimination and harassment,' said Andrea Piper-Wentland, Director of Washington Coalition of Sexual Assault Programs.
'This state said no to discrimination against the LGBT community with passage of Washington's 2006 LGBT civil rights bill: Today, the people of the state said no to turning the clock back on the rights of our Transgender brothers and sisters,' said Seattle Mayor Ed Murray.
The city has an ordinance requiring that single occupancy bathrooms in businesses and public places be available to all.
Former Seattle City Council member Tina Podlodowski, who is challenging Kim Wyman for WA Secretary of State in the fall election, said, 'We sent a clear message that discrimination against Transgender people is NOT one of our values,' said Podlodowski.
While I-1515 did not qualify for the ballot this year, Washington Won't Discriminate says they will continue to mobilize public support for protecting our state's non-discrimination laws from future attacks.
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