PORT TOWNSEND — State legislative candidate Brian Pruiett says if he is elected he’ll seek to rescind rules that allow transgender people to access the bathrooms and locker rooms of their choice.
Pruiett sent out a statement in light of a controversy in Port Townsend concerning transgender access to city pool locker rooms.
“I disagree with the law that Steve Tharinger passed that says anybody can go into a single-sex area, even if you’re a biological male,” Pruiett said in an interview with Peninsula Daily News.
“Tharinger’s Majority Caucus in Olympia was instrumental in allowing men access to women’s and girl’s locker rooms, when they passed legislation allowing the non-elected (Washington) Human Rights Commission to impose this rule on all Washingtonians,” he said.
Pruiett was referring to the Washington Administrative Code which set the policy regarding access to sex-segregated facilities, WAC 162-32-060.
The Human Rights Commission is one of several that sets policy for its specific area of expertise and the law governing it’s authority has been amended several times since the commission was founded in 1971.
Tharinger — who’s been in office since 2010 — said he couldn’t recall a specific vote on transgender issues, but said the commissions were the appropriate place for those kinds of decisions to be made.
“The Legislature is a very political body,” Tharinger said of legislating bathroom policy. “The Human Rights Commission would look at it as a human rights issue.”
State records show the legislative act included sexual orientation, including “gender expression or identity,” under the commission’s jurisdiction was passed in 2006, before Tharinger entered office.
Tharinger said Pruiett’s accusations jumped to conclusions.
“I just don’t think that there’s any cause and effect there and I think it’s a real stretch on his part to make those connections,” Tharinger told PDN.
Tharinger said he stood by his legislative record.
On July 26, Julie Jaman, 80, was permanently banned by the Olympic Peninsula YMCA from the Mountain View Pool after she confronted a transgender woman in the women’s locker room.
Jaman said she heard a man’s voice and saw a person in a bathing suit watching a group of young girls.
She said she asked the person, “Do you have a penis?”
The transgender woman, a staff member of the YMCA, was accompanying the girls to the bathroom, said YMCA spokesperson Erin Hawkins.
The incident has drawn international attention.
On Monday, hundreds gathered outside as the Port Townsend City Council approved a proclamation welcoming transgender people.
Scuffles broke out between some pro-trans activists and supporters of Jaman. Jaman and her supporters eventually left with police standing between them and a larger group of transgender supporters.
Protesters booed, chanted and rang bike bells as Jaman and her supporters tried to speak. Some tried to disable the microphone and speaker being used for speeches.
On Tuesday, Pruiett, a Carlsborg Republican, issued a statement laying blame on Port Townsend city officials and Tharinger, a Port Townsend Democrat.
Pruiett is challenging incumbent Tharinger in the Nov. 8 general election for his District 2 seat of the Legislative District 24.
“Responsibility for supporting this discrimination against women, and the ensuing violence that took place yesterday, can be laid directly at the door of the Port Townsend Mayor, City Council, and career politicians like Steve Tharinger,” Pruiett said.
Asked to clarify, Pruiett said he could not immediately provide a specific vote regarding Tharinger’s relation to WAC 162-32-060, but said the representative’s voting pattern created an unsafe environment for women and that was hostile to police.
Pruiett was specifically critical of Tharinger’s support for several police reform bills he said curtail law enforcement’s ability to protect public safety.
Pruiett said he’d seen video of the event and that elderly women were being assaulted. He blamed the lack of a police response on state legislation curtailing police powers.
But Port Townsend Police Department Chief Thomas Olson disagreed that legislative restraints had any impact on police response to the protests, instead citing inadequate preparation time.