Washington Senate Bill 5599, a measure that proponents insist will protect transgender youth without supportive families seeking lifesaving care, is awaiting Gov. Jay Inslee’s Signature.
The bill, that has incited controversy, has passed both the House and the Senate.
Senate Bill's 5599 prime sponsor Sen. Marko Liias (D-Everett) of the 21st Legislative District said the measure protects transgender and at-risk youth seeking gender-affirming or reproductive care by removing barriers to safe shelter.
Under the bill, shelters would not be required to report youth seeking gender-affirming care or reproductive care to their parents. Instead, the measure requires reporting those youth to the state's Department of Children, Youth and Families (DCYF). The measure applies to host homes, as well.
Under current law, licensed shelters must notify parents if a child comes into their care, unless a compelling reason exits not to, such as putting youth at risk of abuse or neglect. In that case, under current law, shelters have to contact DCYF.
The bill requires DCYF to make referrals on behalf of the minor for appropriate behavioral health services; and offer services designed to resolve the conflict and accomplish a reunification of the family.
The governor was asked about the measure last week during a media availability and asked specifically if he would support it.
"From what I know about it, yes at the moment, but I haven't had a full briefing on it. If a young person is totally estranged from their parents and has no meaningful relationship we need someone to care for that child and the way the legislation is set up is essentially, the Department of Children Youth and Families will step in to that position to care for that child so you have someone looking out for their benefit," Inslee said. "In the real world we want these kids to be protected and not homeless and that's basically the reason for this bill."
In Olympia on Friday, protests were held outside of the statehouse by those for and against the legislation.
Sen. Liias sent KOMO News a statement on Friday that read, "Today’s demonstrations exemplified the importance of democracy, and I was proud to stand in solidarity with the much larger crowd rallying in support of our transgender community – a concrete reminder that love will always trump hate. Today also showed us there is more work to be done to ensure everyone can thrive in our state no matter where they live or their gender identity. All of us deserve the freedom to live an authentic life, and I am committed to continuing to fight to make that a reality for all our trans and nonbinary neighbors."
Julie Barrett, the founder of Conservative Ladies of Washington, who organized the protest against the bill said, “my message about this bill is (that) it really is an assault on parental rights, an assault on children. Our primary thing with this is that parents won’t be notified with this bill and that’s a really scary thing for loving parents and an overwhelming majority of parents love their children more than anything in the world and want to help their children. To have your child potentially go off to a shelter, or a host home and not have any idea where they are, is terrifying.”
Barrett believes it is inevitable that the governor will sign the bill, adding that “the fight really is just beginning. Parents are just starting to wake up to what the laws in the state are.”
As of Friday, a spokesperson for Inslee said “the bill hasn’t gone through staff review and hasn’t been scheduled yet.”