Joseph Backholm, director of the Family Policy Institute of Washington, told his supporters to follow women into bathrooms and get them to sign a petition to add an anti-transgender measure to the state ballot.
Initiative 1515 would allow businesses to decide if women must use the bathroom or locker room that correlates to their biological sex, not gender identity, notes KIRO.
In an audio recording that an anonymous source gave to the Gender Justice League of Seattle, Backholm told signature gatherers: "For the gentlemen, what I would encourage you to do, if you are so bold and you want to make the point, take your petition and stand outside the women's restroom at the mall. If any of the women don't want to sign it, just go ahead and follow them in [laughter from others]. Maybe this will be a better time to sign our little petition, and we can make the point that way."
Backholm refused to comment to the news station, which speculated that his directions may have been a joke.
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The petition needs to have 325,000 signatures by July 8 for I-1515 to make it onto the November ballot.
"We've heard that it's been said at other trainings," Danni Askini, director of the Gender Justice League, told KIRO. "That is setting a tone that that's actually what they're encouraging."
In another recording, Backholm made similar comments about entering a woman's spa: "We're gonna walk in, Erik and I are going naked to the Lakewood spa, and we're gonna tell the ladies, 'If you don't think we should be here, you need to sign our petition.' And we think that's going to be wildly successful."
"I take security and safety very seriously," Askini added. "I think most transgender people do. I think most women take security and safety, especially in bathrooms, seriously, and I think joking about it is incredibly irresponsible."
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King County Sheriff John Urquhart listened to the recordings and told news station: "I'm not going to be the moral arbiter of what's funny and what isn't funny ... I don't know whether Backholm is serious or not. I think the bottom line is, if a signature gatherer follows a woman into a bathroom, he's going to get arrested, at least by my deputies."
The Family Policy Institute of Washington website states:
We believe that excellence is crucial to effectiveness. We believe our conduct, our speech, and any work product should be professional and are committed to ensuring that everything we do meets the highest standards of professionalism.
Personal, emotional issues should be dealt with in a considerate and thoughtful way. We do not believe anyone is obligated to agree with us. Therefore, as we endeavor to persuade others of the rightness of our cause, we are committed to focus our discussion on ideas, not people.