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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, March 3, 2017 - Volume 45 Issue 09
'Decline to Sign' I-1552, Tacoma rally says
Section One
ALL STORIES
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'Decline to Sign' I-1552, Tacoma rally says

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

Hundreds of Trans people and allies gathered at the University of Washington in Tacoma on February 25 to kick off the Decline to Sign I-1552 campaign. The initiative would reverse a ten-year-old civil rights law and bar Transgender Washingtonians from restrooms that match their gender identities.

At the rally, openly Gay Tacoma City Councilmember Ryan Mello recalled that in 2002 Tacoma became one of the first cities in the country where voters approved an anti-discrimination ordinance protecting Transgender residents.

He urged the crowd to ensure that I-1552 'never makes it on the ballot.'

Seth Kirby, chairman of the Washington Won't Discriminate campaign opposing I-1552, said his organization has gotten endorsements from law enforcement, business, and faith leaders.

One of those faith leaders is Bishop Richard Jaech of the Southwestern Washington Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

Jaech said parishioners in his diocese, which includes 90 congregations in southwest Washington, have varying theological positions on Trans rights, but his own study of the Bible convinced him that God loves every person.

He quoted the biblical book of Genesis, saying that God created every person to be 'a person of value and of beauty and of dignity.'

Lydia Valentine also spoke, along with her Transgender son Matt.

'I'm here because I'm Trans and I want to stand up for what's right,' Matt Valentine said.

'To me, the worst thing about I-1552 is that it says that I and the people I love don't deserve the privacy, respect, and safety that everyone should have.'

'I want people to realize that moral apathy is endangering our children,' Lydia Valentine added.

'The root of it is not about bathrooms, in the same way that it was never about water fountains,' in a previous era that segregated public accommodations by race. 'It's about discrimination.'

Backers of I-1552 - essentially the same group that promoted I-1515 last year - have until July 7 to gather 330,000 signatures in order to qualify for the November ballot. Last year the effort to roll back Trans rights fell short, but this year anti-Trans forces started their signature-gathering earlier.

A 2006 state law protects transgender people from discrimination in public accommodations. A follow-up law, passed in 2010 to prohibit discrimination in the state's public schools, includes protection for gender expression or identity.

I-1552, on the other hand, would:

? require schools to maintain separate restrooms, locker rooms, and other facilities for use by boys only and girls only - with gender defined by the one the student was assigned at birth,

? require schools to provide segregated accommodations for Transgender students, if a separate facility is available, and

? allow students who encounter Trans schoolmates in their restrooms to sue the school for violation of privacy. Like last year's I-1515 campaign, I-1552 is run by Joseph Backholm, of the Family Policy Institute of Washington. Backholm declined to comment on the Decline to Sign rally when asked by the Tacoma News Tribune.

'We are happy to engage in debates and public forums with activist organizations who hold a different view, but we do not provide them with quotes or statements to be used at their discretion,' Backholm emailed the newspaper.

'We view the Tacoma News Tribune as an activist organization, so our only participation would be in a format that allows us to speak unedited.'

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