Three eastside suburban Republican state senators joined with the Democrats this afternoon to vote down their party's effort to undo state rules protecting transgender rights.
The GOP has prioritized legislation this session—bringing it to the senate floor for a vote this afternoon—that would have overturned a state human rights commission rule that proactively affirms the state’s longstanding LGBTQ equal rights law; the commission ruled last year that trans people can use the bathrooms and locker rooms consistent with their gender identity. The GOP bill, sponsored by Republican state senator Doug Ericksen (R-42, Ferndale), said the commission must repeal the rule.
The three Republican state senators who rejected the repeal were senators Joe Fain (R-47, Auburn), Andy Hill (R-45, Kirkland), and Steve Liztow (R-41, Mercer Island). All three—Fain, the GOP’s floor leader, Hill, the GOP’s budget lead, and Litzow, the GOP’s education lead, are high profile Republicans; Hill had been seen as a potential gubernatorial candidate.
The GOP starts with a 26-23 advantage over the Democrats. And one Democrat, senator Jim Hargrove (D-24, Hoquiam) voted with the Republicans to overturn the commission’s rule today. With Fain, Hill, and Litzow siding with the Democrats, the repeal lost 25-24.
Litzow said in a statement:
Transgender people are equal members of our community and under the law – passed in 2006 – which protects them as it does everyone. Legislation to create more uncertainty and reduce the rights of any minority does more to divide us than to bring equality. This provides our state with a powerful opportunity to educate more people about our transgender community members and the struggles and discrimination they already face. Instead of targeting the rights of any minority who are protected under law, we must use this opportunity to affirm the rights and safety of all people. I hope today’s vote by the Senate makes it clear to transgender people that their elected officials strongly believe that discrimination is not acceptable.
Danni Askini, the head of the transgender rights group the Gender Justice League, told me after the vote:
"We were hopeful that these Senators would be fair minded on this issue, we have been strongly encouraging transgender people and their families across the state to tell their stories to their legislators. I think this signals a shift in the legislature that divisive social issues that target trans people will not be given a voice in the legislature. We are also immensely thankful for the leadership of the LGBT Caucus, the Democratic leadership, and of course the three Senate Republicans."
While Democrats were happy they were able to block the GOP’s attempt to undo state civil rights rules, one Democrat was disappointed in the day. “Unreal,” state senator Reuven Carlyle (D-36, Ballard, Queen Anne) said as the issue took the floor. “Transgender issue on senate floor, while we’ve spent one hour total [all session] on McCleary.”