The bathroom wars continue in Anchorage, as elsewhere. Today, it’s all about gathering signatures to allow voters to decide next April whether the city ordinance allowing all genders to use any bathroom or locker room is appropriate.
The Protect Our Privacy petition that is circulating says that public bathrooms, locker rooms, and dressing rooms that are marked for male or female usage should be reserved for people according to their sex at birth, anatomy, and genetics.
In other words, if a man wants to use the bathrooms that have been reserved for women, he needs to “become” a woman, and vice versa. There are exceptions listed on the petition for medical emergencies, people entering facilities as janitors, as well as caretakers of people and minors under the age of 8.
That’s not what Anchorage law says. The law says people can use any bathroom they choose. Petition organizers would like to roll that back to traditional norms.
One of the petition sponsors, Kim Minnery, says her group is particularly concerned about the safety of women and children. With more men entering women’s bathrooms, it’s becoming more difficult for women who want bathroom privacy and who have had an assumption of safety in women’s bathrooms and locker rooms.
The petition is in response to a 2015 Anchorage ordinance that bars discrimination over sexual orientation or gender identity in housing, employment and among businesses serving the public.
The ordinance allows people to use bathrooms according to which gender they feel applies to them and relies on a person having a “sincerely held” belief about which gender they prefer to be associated with, “and not being asserted for improper purpose.”
These terms are not legally enforceable since anyone can assert any belief, and” improper purpose” has no definition. The ordinance relies on humans exercising judgment, but with no guidelines.
In Los Angeles, a progressive blogger changed her stance on men in women’s bathrooms after a trip to Disneyland, where a burly man entered the women’s restroom and made women feel uncomfortable as he walked by the toilet stalls, which had gaps between the doors that provided only some privacy. She described the experience of watching the faces of others in the restroom. No one confronted the man because they were unsure of their rights.
Kim Minnery, one of the sponsors of the Anchorage measure, is gathering signatures and must have 5,700 qualified signatures to get the question on the April, 2018 municipal ballot. She hopes her group will have several hundred more signatures than that, but they only have a few days left to gather the signatures.
While the support has been strong, she’s also been dismayed at some churches that have backed away from the issue because they perceive it as “political.”
Bathrooms aren’t political, Minnery says. This is taking a stand for safety of women and children. Most attacks on women and children are perpetrated by men, and mothers still need safe places to help their children use toilets comfortably, she said.
To sign the petition, Anchorage voters may contact [email protected]
Alaska Democratic Party has sent emails urging people to “Decline to Sign” the petition. Alaska Republicans have not sent any notices encouraging people to sign the petition. Opponents of the measure say that there is little chance that predators will abuse the open-bathroom system.
In Washington State, a group of women called Just Want Privacy is sponsoring a similar effort to roll back the open bathroom policy set by the state’s Human Rights Commission.
“Any man can enter any public girl’s locker room in the entire state and declare his right to be there. If girls complain, they will be asked to leave and subject to penalty. The rule dangerously forces girls to ignore their red flags and boundaries for fear of a lawsuit,” the Just Want Privacy group says on its website.