If curious who is allowed to go into what bathroom or locker room, know this: The majority of the Spokane Valley City Council is going there first.
Or, at least, making its opinion known.
Five of the seven council members signed a letter Tuesday saying they were not in favor of new rules drafted by the Washington state Human Rights Commission requiring that access to public restrooms is now based on gender identity rather than biological makeup. A resolution codifying that position will go before the council next Feb. 2; however, Tuesday’s action – which was added to the meeting docket as an amended agenda item – was an effort for the city to comment before a public hearing on the issue Wednesday in Olympia.
“We need to instruct our lobbyist on our legislative wishes,” said Mayor Rod Higgins.
Council Member Chuck Hafner, along with former Mayor Dean Grafos, said that the council was planning to make a decision before the issue could be thoroughly discussed beforehand.
“This letter is very much stating what we intend to do (next week),” he said, adding that it was a state issue before elected legislators. “Why don’t we let them do their job?”
Council Member Sam Wood, who brought the issue before the council, said, “I think it’s a public safety issue. We have wives, daughters and granddaughters…I think we have to know where to draw the line.”
The letter is in support of a state Senate bill that would repeal the commission’s rules, which affect businesses with eight or more employees. The first hearing on the bill was Wednesday.
When word of the council’s planned action was announced in local media, several people on both sides of the issue made comments.
Jay Bemis said he absolutely was in favor of repealing the rules, saying they are “pedophile friendly.”
“My voice is for my daughter,” he said.
Chris Pomeroy, however, said the issue is not about sexual orientation or proclivities.
“Think of the other side,” he said, adding he works with LGBT youth who are regularly discriminated against. “It’s not just adults, and they’re not pedophiles.”
George Conrad said he has “sympathy” for those struggling with gender identity.
“They need help, they don’t need someone coddling them,” he said.
Colton Gerard, who said up to five months ago he was “100 percent a woman,” said that for 15 years he was “terrified” to identify as transgender for safety reasons.
“Everybody wants to feel safe,” he said.
Higgins then cut off public testimony, saying that two council members were leaving the meeting early. He did, however, allow more feedbacl later in the meeting during the second public-comment section.
Council Member Bill Gothmann said he signed the letter because he supported the city’s right to have an opinion. However, he said it would be up to state legislators to make the final decision.
“If you really want to make a change, you’d better go to Olympia,” he said.