Seth Kirby, chair of trans rights group Washington Wont Discriminate, which is challenging Just Want Privacy petitions with the state.
Seth Kirby, chair of trans rights group Washington Won't Discriminate, which is challenging Just Want Privacy petitions with the state. Washington Won't Discriminate

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Just Want Privacy, the group behind a proposed initiative that would repeal state human rights protections for transgender adults and students, has just two weeks to submit the petition signatures it needs to get I-1552 on the ballot. But trans rights and civil liberties activists fighting the initiative say Just Want Privacy's signature-gathering tactics have run afoul of the law and deserve a closer look.

Today, Washington Won't Discriminate (the trans rights group), Legal Voice, and the ACLU submitted a letter to Secretary of State Kim Wyman asking the state to investigate Just Want Privacy's practices. The groups contend that Just Want Privacy has incorrectly stated the court-approved ballot title and summary on two of its petitions, as well as omitted the full text of the measure on the back of the sheets. The groups have asked that Wyman reject petitions with those flaws, and the same letter alleges that anti-trans activists have used false and misleading tactics to get people to sign their names in the first place.

Just Want Privacy campaign chairman Joseph Backholm did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The letter sent to the Secretary of State claims that Just Want Privacy petitions use ballot title language different from the language approved in court. For example, instead of restricting transgender students' access to "some facilities" based on "sex at birth," the letter claims Just Want Privacy used "specific facilities" on its petitions.

The letter also highlights the state law requiring initiative petitions to include the full text of the proposed initiative be included on the back of the petition sheets.

"In light of the constitutional requirement that petition sheets must include the full text of a measure, we would expect the Secretary of State would reject any petitions that include the errors noted above in Sections 4(1)(c) and 4(1)(d) of the measure, or which otherwise fail to include the full text of I-1552," the letter reads.

But one other thrust of the letter's argument deals with behavior that hasn't allegedly crossed the line of legality. In the letter, the trans rights groups say that Just Want Privacy has presented its argument as advocating for "Safe Spaces for Women and Children" and that it's claimed I-1552 would reject an "open-bathroom rule" from the state Human Rights Commission.

"None of those assertions are true," the letter reads. "There is no so-called 'open-bathroom' rule in Washington, nor are businesses or schools prohibited under existing laws and rules from maintaining 'gender specific facilities.' As the ballot title itself correctly reflects, I-1552 seeks to 'override state/local protections against gender-identity discrimination in certain public-accommodation facilities.' Those anti-discrimination protections allow transgender people to use bathrooms and other facilities that are consistent with their gender identity."

A fake human rights commission flier found at the Mariners stadium.
A fake human rights commission flier found at the Mariners stadium. Washington State Human Rights Commission

The letter notes that the state Human Rights Commission also found copies of a false commission advisory that was distributed at a Mariners game. The flier claims that "all public restrooms and locker rooms must be mixed gender" and that "anyone made uncomfortable by the gender of another person in a restroom or locker room must leave the room." Backholm, of Just Want Privacy, did not respond to a request for comment on whether his group had anything to do with these fliers.

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Washington Won't Discriminate has also accused a Just Want Privacy signature gatherer of harassing a woman last month and has criticized Just Want Privacy for using children as signature gatherers.

Just Want Privacy's largest donors to date are the Cedar Park Assembly of God Church, which has contributed $36,000 to the ballot initiative, former Mariners player John Olerud and his wife Kelly ($50,000), and the anti-marriage equality Family Policy Institute of Washington ($10,000).

Just Want Privacy has until July 7 to gather 260,000 signatures it needs to put I-1552 on the ballot.

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