Opponent of state's transgender bathroom law criticized for his tactics

SEATTLE -- One man says Washington’s law allowing transgender people to use the bathroom of the gender they identify with could open the door for criminals to take advantage of women.  He’s now leading the fight to get the law overturned. But his tactics are raising some concern.

Here’s what Joseph Backholm, chairman of the Just Want Privacy Campaign, said on a Family Policy Institute podcast a few weeks ago (here's the link):

"My favorite signature gathering strategy for all the men out there: go to the mall, go to the store, stand outside the women's locker room, take it to the gym with you, stand outside the women's locker room and gather signatures from the women, and if they decline, then follow them into the bathroom and ask them if now would be a better time. And see what kind of a response you would get."

 “What he suggested is wrong and dangerous,” says Collin Jergens, with Fuse Washington.

According to their group, which supports the transgender bathroom law, Backholm has told men to follow women into the bathroom to get signatures before. Their volunteers attended a public meeting in Cashmere in April and took an audio recording of Backholm.

"For the gentlemen, what I would encourage you to do, if you want to be so bold and to make the point, take your petition and stand outside the women's restroom at the mall, and if any of the women don't want to sign it, just go ahead and follow 'em on in. Maybe this will be a better time to sign our little petition...and we can make the point that way." 

 Laughter can be heard in that recording, but the head of the Gender Justice League doesn’t think Backholm’s comments are funny.

“As a woman, I take my safety very seriously. Especially after the violence, we've seen recently,” says Danni Askini. “I think everybody should be taking safety seriously, I don't think it's a joking matter.”

Backholm spoke to Q13 News by phone today (Thursday). He says he’s surprised his words are causing so much concern.

“Everyone who has ever heard those knows exactly what I meant. Of course we're not asking people to go gather signatures in restrooms.”

He doesn’t believe anyone is actually taking his words as advice.

“It's one thing to say I don't think that's funny, it's a stupid joke and that may be true. But the idea that the comment was meant seriously, I can't even entertain that as a serious discussion point.”

But others are worried about the message Backholm is sending.

“We're very concerned about that, inciting this type of harassment against women,” says Jergens.

“I don't think it's funny,” adds Askini.  “I don't think transgender people find it funny, I don't think women find it funny. So I think he should apologize.”

Sheriff John Urquhart says he doesn’t know if Backholm was joking or not when he made those comments. But he says it is against the law for a man to go into a woman’s restroom, and anyone who does will be arrested.