At its June 19 meeting, the Bellingham City Council approved a resolution asking Bellingham residents not to sign the petition for Initiative 1552. The initiative would restrict individuals who identify as a different gender other than the gender assigned at birth from using their desired restrooms.
Initiative 1552 would change Washington state law, which currently prohibits discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation in relation to public facility uses. The law went into effect in December 2015.
The Just Want Privacy Campaign is the organization driving the initiative. The campaign has organized a petition to put the initiative on this November’s ballot. According to the Just Want Privacy website, they are attempting to reach 330,000 signatures by July 7 in order to make the ballot. As of June 21, the petition has 150,100 signatures. Based out of Mill Creek, Washington, the campaign relies on churches to reach statewide voters for signatures.
“People should have the right to be who they are.”
Roxanne Murphy, Bellingham City Council Member
Council members Roxanne Murphy and Dan Hammill moved to pass the resolution asking Bellingham residents to decline to sign the petition supporting the initiative with unanimous approval from the council.
Council member Murphy stated the need to pass the resolution in order to show Bellingham’s support for the transgender and LGBTQ community.
“People should have the right to be who they are,” Murphy said.
The vast majority of community members who spoke also expressed support for the resolution.
“I think it's fair to say that the vast majority of family physicians throughout the country are very much opposed to these bathroom bills for all the obvious discriminatory reasons,” Bellingham resident and family physician Dr. Chao-ying Wu said during the open comment section of the meeting. “But also because they have very real health effects on our patients and, as physicians, we see the adverse health effects of discrimination on a regular basis.”Council member Pinky Vargas showed support for the resolution to protect Bellingham’s transgender community.
“I fully, wholeheartedly think this is atrocious that we are dealing with this in this day and age, so we have [the LGBTQ community’s] back,” Vargas said.
Final approval of the resolution evoked immediate cheers and applause from the audience.
Council members also discussed the proposal for the new Whatcom County jail. Areas of confusion remained on the specifics of the jail, and a motion was made to curate a list of questions to be answered by the Whatcom County Council.
The council deliberated on matters of housing and declared intent to discuss the barriers residents face with the Affordable Housing Program and bring those concerns to council during the future summer months.