Failure of bathroom bill a blow to personal privacy, Sheldon says

Sen. Tim Sheldon, D-Potlatch.

Sen. Tim Sheldon, D-Potlatch.

OLYMPIA – State Sen. Tim Sheldon, D-Potlatch, acknowledged his disappointment Wednesday at the failure of a bill that would have repealed a state Human Rights Commission rule creating a wide-open bathroom policy statewide.

Senate Bill 6443 would have repealed a rule on sex-segregated facilities that permits men to use the ladies’ room, and vice-versa, when they identify themselves as transgendered. The measure failed 25-24.

“We have had more calls and letters to our office on this issue than any other this year,” Sheldon said. “I’m glad we had a chance to vote on it, but I’m sorry it failed. As far as I’m concerned, boys should use the boys’ room and girls should use the girls’ room, and why anyone thinks it’s a good idea for men to undress and shower with women is a mystery to me.”

The new rule, adopted by the commission the day after Christmas, aims to elevate the protected status of the transgendered community. But it offers no definition and no medical-treatment program is required. That means anyone can use facilities intended for the opposite sex when they claim to be transgendered. Testimony before Senate committees revealed a number of cases where men have dressed as women to gain access to restrooms, locker rooms, public showers, homeless shelters and other such facilities, to take photographs or for other untoward purposes.

“We need to be careful here,” Sheldon observed. “Not a single member of the Washington state Senate has suggested transgendered persons are sex predators. But many of us are concerned sex predators will claim to be transgendered. During Senate hearings we heard from many women who have been victims of sexual violence and assume they have a right to privacy – suddenly they don’t.

“We should recognize that transgendered persons use opposite-sex facilities every day without trouble, because they do their best to avoid attention and conform with custom and tradition. But with this rule modesty and decorum are no longer required. It’s a sad day when we abandon common sense and call it civil rights.”