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The battle over transgender Washingtonians' rights continues
Seattle Mayor Ed Murray signed an executive order to ensure protection and inclusion for the city’s transgender and gender-diverse community on Thursday, March 10. Photo:

Responding to a renewed debate about transgender rights in Washington and across the nation, Mayor Ed Murray signed an executive order on Thursday to ensure those rights are protected and that city employees are trained to provide safety and inclusiveness to Seattle’s gender-diverse community.

The executive order came a month after the Washington Senate rejected a bill that would have forced people to use restrooms based on their birth gender rather than the one with which they identify.

The order instructs the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) to develop training policies for city staff on how to continue providing safe and inclusive spaces for residents, continues notifying businesses of the city’s all-gender restroom signage law adopted last August and requires the OCR and Seattle Department of Human Resources (SDHR) to develop transgender employment policies to protect the city’s gender-diverse employees.

The executive order refers to a 2011 joint report by the National Center for Transgender Equality and National Gay & Lesbian Task Force, where 53 percent of the transgender community reported being verbally harassed or disrespected in a place of public accommodation and 22 percent reported being denied access to appropriate restroom facilities by government agencies.

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Meanwhile, anti-trans activists are turning to the ballot-box to ask Washington voters to approve a ballot initiative containing policies that failed in legislature. The bill requires schools to segregate restrooms and locker rooms according to birth anatomy and chromosomes. Each student who runs into a trans person in a school facility can sue their school—and if they can show that the school didn’t do enough to stop the trans person from using the restroom matching their gender identity, they can collect $2500 for each time they see the trans person.

The ballot initiative doesnt just stop there. It would permit anyone who operates a public restroom to demand proof of sex before letting someone go in, with no safeguards to prevent that authority from being abused. It overturns the regulations put out last year by the Human Rights Commission that made clear that transgender people have the right to use restrooms consistent with their gender. And it prevents city and county governments from passing laws or policies protecting trans people from discrimination in restrooms.

The initiative proponents have until July 8 to collect about 250,000 signatures in order to get the initiative on the November ballot. Now, it’s up to the people of Washington State to make sure that all students are safe and protected, and that their state doesn’t become the first to require this kind of discrimination against trans students and adults. Reach out to the Washington SAFE Alliance to find out how you can get involved.

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