DORI MONSON

I-1515 chairmen on transgender recording: People have lost their sense of humor

Jun 16, 2016, 2:33 PM | Updated: 3:56 pm

When Joseph Backholm suggested that men should prove a point by going into women’s bathrooms to collect signatures for Initiative 1515, he says he expected someone was recording him.

“I have the expectation, actually, that everything I ever say is going to be recorded by somebody because they do this all the time,” Backholm told KIRO Radio’s Dori Monson. “They have an amazing amount of time on their hands. And so they’re always looking to find the seedy underbelly of the hate that they know actually drives what we actually do.”

“The fact is, this is the worst thing that they’ve come up with — a stupid joke — which I actually claim is a badge of honor,” he said. “Because what they’re actually looking for doesn’t exist.”

Related: Fear mongering and the arguments for I-1515

Backholm, director of the Family Policy Institute of Washington, asked volunteers to employ a controversial tactic as a way to collect signatures for the I-1515 ballot. It was all caught on tape.

For the gentlemen, what I would encourage you to do, if you are so bold and to make the point, take your petition and stand outside the women’s restroom at the mall. If any of the women don’t want to sign it, just go ahead and follow them in [laughter from crowd]. Maybe this will be a better time to sign our little petition, and we can make the point that way.

The Family Policy Institute of Washington is a faith-based organization that is known around the state for its previous attempts to combat the move toward marriage equality.

Backholm acknowledged Thursday that the comment was “kind of a dumb joke” but that it made a point about the current state of the law.

“It’s unfortunate that people have entirely lost their sense of humor,” he said

King County Sheriff John Urquhart told KIRO 7 that such a tactic would be an arrestable offense. However, Backholm says it represents the current challenge.

“You have a legal right to be present based on your gender expression or gender identity,” he said. “Those can be temporary or permanent things. It at least gives a legal defense to claim that if I’m not harassing anybody, if I claim to be a particular gender you can’t prove that I’m not. That’s a factual reality. You can’t prove that somebody does not express a particular gender and that’s part of the trouble for the entire underlying rule.”

Critics of the measure, such as Washington Won’t Discriminate,  say it would keep transgender individuals from being able to use the bathroom or locker rooms that correspond to his or her gender identity. Backholm argues otherwise, saying I-1515 repeals the rule that currently exists in Washington, bringing the law back to how it was for generations: allowing transgender people to use bathrooms they identified with. The main difference, he says, is that would give businesses more freedom.

“All it would do is remove liability from businesses if they own a gym and they see somebody like me walking into the women’s locker room and they think, ‘Hey, that’s not appropriate,’” he said. “I don’t have a cause of action against them if they say, ‘Hey, the women in there deserve not to have you present while they’re changing.’”

Backholm says I-1515 is much different than the controversial law that passed in North Carolina. He adds that the point of the measure is to ensure there isn’t a legal loophole for Washington’s sex offenders to exploit the current law. He added that under the current state of the law, someone claiming to be transgender has the legal right to drag a business into litigation, even if it turns out the intervention was reasonable.

“The fact that (someone) can bring a claim against them of discrimination because they didn’t allow me to be where I wanted to be based on what I was expressing at the moment — that itself is a problem, so the initiative just restores freedom,” he said.

Backholm said nine people in Cashmere, Wash. were at the meeting when he made the controversial comment and that one of them delivered the audio recordings delivered to the anti I-1515 group Gender Justice League.

“If they were actually trying to minimize the impact of that ridiculous statement and make sure people aren’t doing that, they wouldn’t have taken the recording that they surreptitiously took and given it to every media outlet they could,” he said. “When you decide to hate someone, everything they do is offensive. Even the silly jokes.”

To check if Backholm’s statements here line up with the text of I-1515, read the full text of the initiative here.

Join AM 770 KTTH for their next Freedom Series: Transgender Restroom Rights: Values, Safety, and the Law on June 29th in Tacoma. Jason Rantz moderates the debate between talk show hosts Michael Medved & Todd Herman and transgender activist Mac McGregor and LGBTQ advocate Aleksa Manila. Tickets starts at just $15 and can be purchased here.

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I-1515 chairmen on transgender recording: People have lost their sense of humor