Friday was the deadline for “Just Want Privacy,” the anti-trans coalition led by the Family Policy Institute of Washington, to submit about 260,000 valid signatures that would place their initiative on the ballot. The campaign boasted that it collected 240,000 signatures, which is 20,000 more than their 2015 effort, but still not enough to qualify.
In fact, this is still probably far shorter than it sounds, as most campaigns submit far more than the minimum required number because many signatures get deemed invalid (fake signatures, redundancies, people not registered to vote in the state, etc.). Last year, for example, Just Want Privacy aimed to collect 300,000 signatures, so despite claiming that they had learned lessons from last year’s failure, they seemingly set their goals lower this year, not higher.
The proposed initiative, I-1552, would have required all public facilities (restrooms, locker rooms, etc.) to be separated by sex as determined “biologically or genetically at the time of a person’s birth.” Transgender students would have to be segregated to single-use facilities. If a transgender student was allowed to use the regular gendered facilities, other “aggrieved” students would be entitled to sue their school for as much as $5,000 for each time they had to encounter a trans student in one of those facilities. This would include monetary damages for “psychological, emotional, and physical harm” a student would supposedly experience just for seeing a transgender student in the same space.
Just Want Privacy launched their campaign last year as a reaction to the Washington State Human Rights Commission enacting new rules clarifying the enforcement of gender identity nondiscrimination protections that had been passed into law way back in 2006. The rules explained that transgender people are protected under law and must be treated in accordance with their identity when accessing gender segregated facilities.
Just Want Privacy claims that the initiative is necessary to protect women and children in bathrooms. They use stories of peeping toms and other non-transgender people actually committing crimes in facilities to justify banning innocent transgender people from spaces that correspond to their gender identity. In fact, that sentiment was even expressed in their logo:
Back in March, the campaign tried to use a story about a female jogger who was attacked in a Seattle park bathroom to justify their efforts. “Each week yields new stories of deviant men who found ways to access female’s vulnerable spaces in order to exploit them,” an email explained. The woman, who had successfully fought back and escaped, publicly denounced Just Want Privacy for trying to capitalize on her experience: “Not today, mutherf*ckers. I refuse to allow anyone to use me and my horrific sexual assault to cause harm and discrimination to others.”
The front page of the campaign’s website still reads: “Fact: Right now in Washington, any man can enter any women’s locker room in the entire state and declare his right to be there.” This is a blatant lie. Indeed, the state Human Rights Commission explicitly explained a year and a half ago that any business owner concerned that a person is not in the proper space can ask them to leave. Given voyeurism and sexual assault are already crimes anyway, this false claim about “men in women’s locker rooms” is nothing but a scare tactic that Just Want Privacy uses to try to justify anti-transgender discrimination.
During their signature collection efforts last year, the campaign even blatantly tried to create the imagined problem they pretend to want to fix. Joseph Backholm, director of the Family Policy Institute of Washington, repeatedly urged male signature collectors to stand outside women’s restrooms and follow women into the facilities if they don’t sign the petition. “Ask them if now would be a better time and see what kind of a response you would get,” he joked.
Washington Won’t Discriminate, the coalition that has resisted Just Want Privacy the past two years with a “Decline to Sign” effort, celebrated the campaign’s latest failure. “Washington would have been the first state to put a repeal of transgender rights up for a public vote, and we’re proud of our state for saying no a second time,” said Seth Kirby, a transgender man and the chair of the No on I-1552 campaign.
As it did when it failed last year, Just Want Privacy promised, “We will not stop working to reverse this dangerous rule and restore the safety and privacy of women and girls in Washington. Whether that means trying again next year or working with the legislature in the upcoming session will be determined in the near future.”