Washington Senate rejects reversal of transgender bathroom rule

Senators watch the vote count on their computers on a bill that sought to eliminate Washington's new rule allowing transgender people to use bathrooms and locker rooms in public buildings consistent with their gender identity, Wednesday, Feb. 10, 2016, in Olympia, Wash. The measure failed by one vote, with three Republicans joining Democrats to vote against it.

Senators watch the vote count on their computers on a bill that sought to eliminate Washington's new rule allowing transgender people to use bathrooms and locker rooms in public buildings consistent with their gender identity, Wednesday, Feb. 10, 2016, in Olympia, Wash. The measure failed by one vote, with three Republicans joining Democrats to vote against it. Rachel La Corte, AP

OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) — Urged by lawmakers who said the Legislature must protect civil rights, Washington’s full Senate this week narrowly rejected a bill that would have repealed a new state rule allowing transgender people to use bathrooms and locker rooms in public buildings consistent with their gender identity.

Three Republicans, the chamber’s majority party, joined many Democrats in rejecting the measure on a 25-24 vote on Wednesday.

Sen. Doug Ericksen, a Republican from Ferndale who sponsored the measure, argued during debate on the floor that the rule, created by the state’s Human Rights Commission, leaves business owners unable to stop men posing as transgender people to sexually assault women in locker rooms.

“Under this rule, practically, what can he do to be able to protect his members that are uncomfortable?” Ericksen said.

Many Democrats defended the state rule that went into effect on Dec. 26. Sen. Cyrus Habib, D-Kirkland, said there is no civil right protecting people from being uncomfortable, but there is “a civil right to be included.”

The worry that people might abuse the commission’s rule is unfounded, added Sen. Pramila Jayapal, D-Seattle.

“There have been no sex offenders that have been posing as transgender people to get into bathrooms,” she said.

Sen. Marko Liias, D-Lynnwood, told reporters after the vote that he was disappointed the issue was debated on the floor if it was likely to fail.

But considering the emotional debate the issue has prompted in the general public, the bill deserved discussion by the whole Senate, said Sen. Michael Baumgartner, a Republican from Spokane.

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