How did this happen, exactly?
That’s the question thousands of Washingtonians are asking themselves after the Human Rights Commission unilaterally introduced a new statewide mandate that forces businesses and schools to modify their policies to allow men into the women’s facilities. The measure, which was aiming at blocking discrimination towards transgendered people, requires “public accommodations” to open up their showers, locker rooms, and bathrooms based on the way someone claims to identify internally, rather than what their anatomy and DNA would show.
So exactly how and when did this process start?
April 16, 2012: The Human Rights Commission (HRC) files WSR 12-09-050, a “Preproposal Statement of Inquiry” with the Washington Code Reviser’s office. This document outlines the commission’s goals to begin the rule making process. Claiming that the 2006 Washington Law Against Discrimination (WLAD) was too ambiguous on the issue of gender identity, they felt it within the bounds of their authority to create a rule to clarify it. This legally-binding rule would not be subject to legislative approval.
May 24, 2012: The Human Rights Commission holds a “public work group” in Pasco, Washington, aimed at gathering public input on this topic. The notice that was published with the Washington Code Reviser’s office for this public meeting, however, was May 23rd. Later, Commission Chair Steve Hunt expressed his disappointment in regards to the lack of attendance for this meeting in Pasco.
June 6, 2012: The Human Rights Commission holds similar workgroup meetings in Olympia and Spokane. Then-Commissioner Shawn Murinko stated during the HRC’s June Commission meeting that the work groups were “not well attended by policy makers and stakeholders.”
June 20, 2012: The Human Rights Commission holds its final input-gathering workgroup in Seattle, which Commission Chair Steve Hunt also categorized as lightly attended, while absolving the Commission of any fault for the lack of attendance during their June commission meeting.
June 24, 2015: The Human Rights Commission holds a final forum (also not well-attended) for public comment at the Oasis Youth Center in Tacoma, Washington. The Oasis Youth Center is a care facility that provides services specifically for local LGBT youth; their motto is “where queer youth thrive.”
At this point, it is important to note that the Human Rights Commission has openly admitted in their meeting minutes that they have not received sufficient public input by acknowledging that policy makers and stakeholders were not present at the work groups. Despite this, they moved forward in implementing WAC 162-32.
November 25, 2015: After receiving almost no public input, the Human Rights Commission approves the open-bathroom rule and files it with the Code Reviser’s office. The Commission’s approval makes the rule tantamount to state law, and is set to go into effect December 26th, 2015.
December 26, 2015: The Human Rights Commission’s WAC 162-32 rule officially goes into effect. The press is slow to cover the Commission’s new rule, and many Washingtonians remain unaware that men are now allowed into women’s public restroom and locker room facilities statewide.
December 29th, 2015: FPIW first reports on the new HRC Rule.
January 11, 2016: A petition is launched urging the legislature to repeal the bathroom rule.
January 15, 2016: In response to growing concerns about the Human Rights Commission’s bathroom rule, members of the Washington State House of Representative introduce HB 2589, which would repeal the new rule. The bill gains the sponsorship of over 35 legislators in the House, but House Judiciary Committee Chair Laurie Jinkins (D-Tacoma), refuses to allow her committee to hear the bill, effectively killing its ability to become law.
January 20, 2016: The Washington State Senate follows the lead of legislators in the House and introduces its own bill, SB 6443, to repeal the Commission’s open-bathroom rule. The Bill gains the co-sponsorship of 14 Senators upon introduction, and a hearing is set for January 27, 2016.
January 22, 2016: Human Rights Commission Executive Director Sharon Ortiz testifies before the House General Government and Information Technology Committee and affirms that none of the public work groups related to the bathroom rule making process were well-attended. Further, she claims that budget cuts were the reason that the group waited over two years to make rules using the input gathered in the 2012 work groups, and also claims that the Human Rights Commission hasn’t been able to publish any of their activities online because they don’t have access to their website. You can watch that exchange here.
January 27, 2016: The Washington State Senate Committee on Commerce & Labor holds a public hearing on SB 6443 in Olympia. Hundreds of concerned citizens travel to Olympia to attend the hearing and give testimony. After the hearing, the Senate’s Commerce & Labor Committee votes in favor of the bill, sending it to the Senate Rules Committee.
February 2, 2016: 10,000 people have signed a petition to the Washington Legislature to repeal the bathroom rule.
February 10, 2016: The Washington State Senate pulls SB 6443 from the Rules Committee to a floor vote. After nearly an hour of debate, the Senate votes against SB 6443 by a vote of 25-24. With this action, the Senate effectively kills the bill’s chances to become law, as well as the legislature’s ability to repeal the open-bathroom rule. You can see who voted against the bill here.
February 15, 2016: Concerned citizens from Kitsap and Pierce Counties organize a rally at the Capitol in Olympia demanding that the legislature revive and prioritize the effort to repeal the bathroom rule.
February 17, 2016: The Just Want Privacy Campaign is announced, which aims to repeal the Human Rights Commission’s Bathroom Rule by way of initiative process in the November 2016 election.
If you’re looking for a way to get involved in the repeal effort, you can contact the Just Want Privacy Campaign.