One reason why Washington’s transgender bill failed in Olympia

Feb 11, 2016, 8:21 PM | Updated: Jun 16, 2016, 9:28 pm
Monisha Harrell with Equal Rights Washington noted that fear ultimately is why bills are created an...
Monisha Harrell with Equal Rights Washington noted that fear ultimately is why bills are created and defeated when it comes to LGBTQ issues. And that is no way to legislate, she said. (MyNorthwest)

A controversial bill came close to passing this week, but proponents of equal rights are celebrating its defeat, allowing rules for transgender individuals in Washington to stand.

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“We shouldn’t be blaming the people who are victimized. We should be examining why these (other) people have this fear,” said Monisha Harrell with Equal Rights Washington on KIRO Radio’s Jason Rantz Show. “Perhaps they need some education … that’s an opportunity for themselves to learn a little more and put their fears aside.”

Harrell and Equal Rights Washington opposed the bill, and she told Rantz why such a bill is created and ultimately fails in Olympia: Fear.

Senate Bill 6443 was sponsored by Sen. Doug Ericksen (R-Ferndale) and aimed to repeal a rule put in place by the state’s Human Rights Commission. That rule stated transgender individuals could use whatever bathroom facility their personally identified with. Other facilities such as locker rooms are included in this rule. It drew criticism from many afraid it would provide an excuse for predators to enter women’s locker rooms.

The bill failed with a 25-24 vote. That vote was largely divided along party lines with Republicans supporting it, and Democrats against. But three Republicans voted against the bill, and one Democrat ended up voting in support.

“We have three Republicans that realize that debating peoples’ rights isn’t something we should be using our tax dollars to support,” Harrell said.

But Senator Ericksen has not been deterred. He took to his Facebook page in the wake of the bill’s defeat, and has vowed to bring the issue back in the form of an initiative.

Thank you to the 24 senators who voted to repeal a rule put in place by an un-elected board.

This is not about bathrooms, it is about locker rooms and shower rooms.

There will be an initiative filed to overturn this rule. -Sen. Doug Ericksen

Harrell further noted that there is a range of other issues that Washington’s lawmakers could be addressing, such as the task of funding education in keeping with the famous McCleary decision.

“If you want the list of things we should have focused on it would have been lengthy. But this is what they decided to spend the first four weeks of session on,” she said.

But fear still won, in a way, in Olympia. It still drove lawmakers to draft a bill, and debate it, Harrell said.

“The fear is of the ‘other,'” she said. “The fear is of something people don’t relate to and understand. And that fear goes far beyond our transgender community. It exists in any community where there is a creation of an ‘other’ who is not part of the majority group. We see it repeatedly. Right now the transgender community is the other — the group being feared. In some communities it’s people of color, specifically black people. We have an entire history of a system that has feared the other.”

“Fear is not new, but that doesn’t mean it is right,” Harrell said.

Rantz pointed out that the transgender issue touched a debate that has happened with other issues — when people argue that their religious beliefs conflict on topics such as gay rights, or transgender issues.

“It’s hard to respond to that, because transgender people do exist,” Harrell said. “If your religious beliefs tell you they don’t exist, perhaps that belief should be reexamined. There are things that an individual doesn’t understand, but it doesn’t mean it’s not true.”

“I wouldn’t say the person against it is a bad person. But it also doesn’t mean that we regulate our state based on fear. It also doesn’t mean that we dictate how we conduct ourselves based on fear,” she said.

And as for the other common argument around transgender rights — bathrooms and locker rooms.

“We have had transgender individuals using facilities, showers, restrooms, public accommodations, for the last 10 years without incident,” Harrell said. “What we are talking about here is fear. Rightfully this bill failed because that fear didn’t meet reality.”

“As it has for the last 10 years. Life in Washington state will go on,” she said.

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One reason why Washington’s transgender bill failed in Olympia