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Mid-Week Update: Bathroom Rule Repeals Still Alive


We’ve had many calls, emails, and messages in the office today asking for updates on the repeal of the bathroom rule.  Ask and you shall receive!

All three of the bills focused on this effort contain provisions to repeal the dangerous policy enacted by the Human Rights Commission. Even if one or all of these bills are passed by both chambers, they must also be signed into law by Governor Jay Inslee, who, while he has declined to comment, has not been sympathetic of public safety concerns to this point.  Of course, in election years, politicians’ actions are often unpredictable, as many are worried about re-election — that’s why the volume of phone calls and emails is so important to these efforts.  You can read our initial article explaining the repeal process here.

FPIW encourages all concerned citizens to email their legislators about this issue, call their offices, and contact Governor Inslee’s office as well.  For bills marked “SB”, you should contact Senators; for bills marked “HB”, you should contact members of the House of Representatives.  Share your concerns. Your input matters and your concerns are being heard. to fight this policy to the end!


The Bills

SB 6548 by Senator Judy Warnick must be passed by the Senate Law and Justice Committee and moved to the Senate Rules Committee by Friday, February 5th, in order to remain alive.  (UPDATE, 3:07pm PST): SB 6548 will be voted on by the Senate Committee on Law and Justice on Wednesday, February 3rd at 5:30pm.  This bill would amend the underlying civil rights law used to enact the Human Rights Commission Rule, to clarify that the law did not intend to say that gender identity or gender expression are sufficient reasons to enter a bathroom, locker room, or shower facility, and that biology must be accounted for in entry policies.

HB 2589 must be passed by the House Judiciary Committee by Friday, February 5th, in order to remain alive. To this point, House Judiciary Chair Laurie Jinkins has remained resolute in her unwillingness to allow the public to provide input on this issue in her committee.  If HB 2589 does not get a hearing and pass through the House Judiciary Committee by Friday, other methods will have to be pursued to bring this bill to the floor for a vote.  Clarification: All three of the bathroom rule repeal bills are filed separately, meaning that even if HB 2589 fails to make it out of the House Judiciary Committee by the deadline, SB 6443 and SB 6548 are still active and alive.  

SB 6443 by Senator Doug Ericksen has made the most progress to date. This bill calls for a repeal of the provisions in WAC 162-32 that opens up bathroom, locker room, and shower facilities, and removes the Human Rights Commission’s authority to make rules on that subject ever again. This bill is currently at step 7 in the 22-step legislative process. You can click here to watch a video that explains the legislative process in Washington.  The Senate Rules Committee is likely to recommend passage of SB 6443 this week.  Once it passes in the Rules committee, it is eligible to be pulled to the Senate Floor for a full vote.  A full Senate vote must take place before February 17th at 5:00pm in order to remain alive.

Background on the Bathroom Rule

On December 26th, 2015, the Human Rights Commission enacted a rule, WAC 162-32, that contains provisions that open up bathrooms, locker rooms, and shower facilities inside “public accommodations” by allowing people to enter those facilities by the way they claim to identify internally rather than what their DNA and biological structure would show. Because of the rule’s clause that makes it unlawful to ask “unwelcome questions” such as the gender or motives of a person entering the facility, concern exists that sexual predators – who otherwise would never otherwise claim to identify as a woman — may use this rule to shower with women or spy on them in the bathroom with better legal protections.

The Human Rights Commission has rule making authority delegated by the legislature. Therefore, the rules it makes are legally-binding and do not require the legislature’s approval to go into effect.   The legislature does, however, have the authority to overrule the Human Rights Commission, and change the level of authority that the commission carries.

If you have any questions, please call our office at 425-608-0242.

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