Group launches campaign to put transgender bathroom access to a public vote

SEATTLE -- The controversy continues over the state’s new transgender locker room access rule. A group of citizens is launching a campaign to get the rule repealed, because of safety and privacy concerns.

The rule, passed by the Human Rights Commission last year and upheld by the state Senate this week, says public buildings must allow transgender people to use the bathrooms and locker rooms of the gender they identify with.

Gunner Scott, a transgender male who works with the Pride Foundation, says the access rule is necessary.

“It’s a matter of safety for us," he says. "It’s a matter of comfort for people who are not transgender.”

But Joseph Backholm, the chairman of the Just Want Privacy campaign, disagrees. He says the new rule could actually create dangerous situations.

“The fact that it is exploitable by people with bad intentions is undeniable.”

Last week, a man entered the women’s locker room at Evans Pool in Green Lake and started undressing. He did not verbally identify as female. But when parks staff asked him to leave, he said “the law has changed and I have a right to be here.” Staff said they did not feel the need to call police, because the man eventually left on his own.

But Backholm says if the law stands, there could be more instances like that.

“We can’t give someone a legal right to be someplace where they don’t belong just by saying I am a woman.”

Scott believes the campaign is targeting transgender people.

“I’m concerned for my own personal safety and for the safety of members of my community.”

Backholm says he just wants to give voters the chance to decide on the issue for themselves.

“We hope the public will respond and we will gather signatures necessary to put it on the ballot.”