Metro Weekly

Seattle mayor signs pro-transgender executive order

Mayor's action comes as conservative groups mount ballot initiative targeting trans people's bathroom use

Seattle Mayor Ed Murray (Photo: Ryan Georgi, via Wikimedia).

Seattle Mayor Ed Murray (Photo: Ryan Georgi, via Wikimedia).

Seattle Mayor Ed Murray has signed an executive order requiring the city’s Office for Civil Rights to develop comprehensive competency training for all “front-line” city government officials and staffers on how to interact with transgender and gender-nonconforming city residents.

The Office for Civil Rights will work with LGBT and other community organizations to develop the new trainings and establish standards of behavior to which all city employees must conform when assisting or accommodating members of the transgender community, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer reports.

“City facilities must be safe and welcoming places for all residents, including transgender and gender-diverse people,” Murray said in a statement released by his office. “Front-line city staff will have the training they need to understand our ordinances and state laws that protect the rights of transgender people and protect them from harassment and violence. The law requires that we provide access to the facilities that correspond to a person’s gender identity, and everyone deserves to be treated with respect.”

Murray’s executive order comes just a week after social conservatives in Washington State filed a ballot initiative that would overturn a Washington State Human Rights Commission rule that allows transgender people to use restroom and changing facilities consistent with their gender identity. A bill that would have overturned the rule was defeated in the legislature after Democrats in both chambers and three Republican senators helped block the legislation.

The initiative, which is similar to a similar referendum in Houston that overturned that city’s human rights ordinance, was filed by Joseph Backholm, head of the Family Policy Institute of Washington, on behalf of the “Just Want Privacy Campaign.” The Family Policy Institute is the same group that forced Washington State’s ballot initiative on same-sex marriage onto the 2012 ballot.

Last August, Seattle’s city council approved a proposal that designated all public single-stall restrooms as “all-gender.”

A spokesman from The Pride Foundation, an LGBT rights organization for the Pacific Northwest, was not immediately available for comment. 

John Riley is the local news reporter for Metro Weekly. He can be reached at jriley@metroweekly.com