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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, June 17, 2016 - Volume 44 Issue 25
Fire Backholm! demands Washington Won't Discriminate

I-1515 boss orders signature gatherers to harass women
Section One
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Fire Backholm! demands Washington Won't Discriminate

I-1515 boss orders signature gatherers to harass women

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

'We are calling on the I-1515 campaign to fire their manager, Joseph Backholm, for inciting others to commit crimes and putting voters in danger,' Washington Won't Discriminate demanded on June 15.

The call to get rid of Backholm, who is also boss of the Family Policy Institute of Washington, came in the wake of a KIRO-7 story reporting that Backholm had ordered I-1515 signature gatherers to follow women into restrooms and coerce them into signing the petition to put the anti-Trans initiative on the November ballot.

'When the head of the I-1515 campaign is prepared to menace women in an effort to overturn transgender non-discrimination protections, clearly this is about one thing: Transgender discrimination,' Equal Rights Washington Executive Director Monisha Harrell said in an email to supporters.

'Using fear and intimidation to achieve discriminatory political ends is despicable. What's more, sending men into women's bathrooms is against the law.'

Audio recordings of Backholm speaking to signature gatherers were delivered anonymously to the Gender Justice League of Seattle.

'For the gentlemen, what I would encourage you to do, if you are so bold and to make the point, take your petition and stand outside the women's restroom at the mall,' Backhom says in the recording.

'If any of the women don't want to sign it, just go ahead and follow them in [laughter from crowd]. Maybe this will be a better time to sign our little petition, and we can make the point that way.'

In another meeting, Backholm was recorded saying something similar about targeting a women's spa.

'We're going to go gather signatures there, actually,' he says.

'We're gonna walk in...We're going naked to the Lakewood spa, and we're going to tell the ladies, 'If you don't think we should be here, you need to sign our petition.' And we think that would be wildly successful.'

Danni Askini, director of the Gender Justice League, told KIRO-7 that Backhom's remarks were frightening to the Trans community.

'This is one recording, but we've heard that it's been said at other trainings,' Askini said. 'That is setting a tone that that's actually what they're encouraging.'

'I take security and safety very seriously,' Askini continued, noting that more than 50% of Trans people report being attacked or harassed in restrooms. 'I think most transgender people do - and I think most women - take security and safety, especially in bathrooms, seriously, and I think joking about it is incredibly irresponsible.'

Washington Won't Discriminate, the organization created to fight I-1515, agreed.

'This is scary,' the group said on its website. 'All of us enter bathrooms with the expectation of privacy and security. And now public safety - which proponents of I-1515 say is their reason for discriminating against transgender Washingtonians - is being directly compromised, all to advance a ballot initiative.

'And the fact that Backholm is seeking to ignite and capitalize on fear to advance anti-transgender discrimination just days after the brutal shooting in Orlando is indefensible.'

King County Sheriff John Urquhart said Backholm's suggestions would be a violation of criminal trespass laws.

'I'm not going to be the moral arbiter of what's funny and what isn't funny,' Urquhart said. '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.'

According to KIRO-7, Backholm refused to answer questions about his comments.

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