SEATTLE – For the last three years the issue of bathrooms and transgender people has taken on a life of its own. Due to laws being enacted and then subsequently repealed in states like North Carolina, which bathroom someone decides to use has become one of the hottest political issues around the nation. It has polarized people who either take one side or the other, and many anti-trans activist groups feel as if their concerns and voices have not been heard.
A Washington-based group called “Just Want Privacy” has begun to rally to get their point and opinions across by forcing the policing of transgender people to use the bathroom that their genitals dictate. A new bill by the name of I-1552 is one that many believe is based on bigotry and will cause a lot of division, shame, and bullying within the Seattle school system.
The initiative is one that not only affects the public school system by disallowing transgender students to use bathrooms other than those assigned to their body parts, but also seeks to undo protections that the state has in place for transgender people in the workplace. It attempts to gender-segregate bathrooms in any public place and work environment. Many believe that the bill will repeal the protections for human rights that were passed in 2016 regarding transgender individuals.
It is a right in America to petition and to protest, but it isn’t a right if you are taking away someone else’s civil liberties by doing so. That is what many opponents of the new bill are insisting. The advocacy group pushing the I-1552 agenda has been accused of using coercive tactics to get people to sign their petition. Many anti-trans petitioners have allegedly waited outside establishments and harassing people who won’t put their name on the dotted line, which is not a right under the Constitution. In fact, it goes against another person’s civil rights not to be coerced or harassed.
An incident outside of a Seattle Walmart resulted in Sakara Remmu insisting that she was assaulted when she refused to sign the petition of a man who had requested her signature. When she declined to sign the petition to have transgender people forced to use the bathroom of their sexual assignment and began to walk away, the petitioner grabbed her elbow to get her attention. She promptly told the man holding the petition that he was not to touch her and that he was breaking the law.
According to a civil anti harassment Seattle, the law does state that it is assault if someone touches another person, and that means that law enforcement does have the right to step in. But law enforcement in Seattle is unlikely to press charges for the minor touch. The problem is that with tensions rising around the country, and specifically in Seattle between law enforcement and many communities, the likelihood that anyone wants to get officers involved in minor scuffles is very small.
Many in the black community believe that they will be unfairly targeted if they claim, so they don’t call. As Remmu is Muslim, she felt a double threat at calling the police to make a claim. The interaction was not reported, but instead she posted it to Facebook, where others who have encountered similar harassment and coercion began to come forward to tell their tales.
Being able to petition to get signatures to further your cause is protected under the free speech laws granted by the Bill of Rights. But the rights of the petitioner do not trump the protection that civilians are granted related to being harassed and coerced. There are limits about what petitioners are allowed to do in their efforts to gain signatures.
This isn’t the first time that allegations were made against Just Want Privacy, and trans-rights advocates want something done about the way the groups is gathering signatures and the type of tactics they are using. It isn’t legal to harass someone for their signature. And if those signatures are gained through coercion, then they should not be counted.
For now, it is imperative that anyone who feels harassed by someone to sign their petition to follow up with law enforcement. Otherwise, you have given up your civil rights for the petitioner’s First Amendment ones.