Catholic group shifts position on repeal campaign against law meant to help trans youth

By: - June 29, 2023 5:50 pm

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A notable ally has rejoined a conservative fight to repeal a new law intended to protect transgender youth who are homeless or fleeing difficult family situations. 

The law, Senate Bill 5599, allows shelters to notify state authorities instead of parents when a young person seeks refuge to pursue gender-affirming care or reproductive health services. After Gov. Jay Inslee signed it in May, conservatives launched Referendum 101 — also known as “Reject 5599” — an attempt to get the issue in front of voters. 

On June 29, the Washington State Catholic Conference released a letter stating it will officially support Reject 5599. The organization previously took a neutral stance and prohibited signature gathering for the repeal measure at parishes. 

The referendum needs valid signatures of at least 162,258 registered voters by Saturday, July 22. So far, the effort has not shown signs of gaining much traction

WSCC’s June 15 email announcing its neutral stance on Reject 5599 said the organization’s “current assessment is that the campaign to get Referendum 101 on the ballot is too far behind in collecting signatures and obtaining needed funding for a successful effort.” 

In changing its position, the group noted members speaking up to back the referendum.

“We thank the faithful who have contacted us and indicated their willingness to support Referendum 101,” the latest letter reads. “We appreciate their advocacy for the common good.” 

Julie Barrett of Conservative Ladies of Washington said she heard from one Spokane resident who said their pastor pledged to collect signatures at church in spite of the earlier WSCC decision. 

“I think people around the state, especially Catholics and Christians, were really taken aback that the Catholic Church would not want to participate in this, since it’s such a huge family, parental rights issue,” Barrett said.

“We would hope that over the next couple of weeks, where they have the opportunity to gather signatures, that they will come up with the tens of thousands that, I think, we need to get this over the finish line,” Barrett added. 

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Grace Deng
Grace Deng

Grace Deng joined the Washington State Standard shortly after graduating from Northwestern University in June 2023. Grace, who currently lives in Tacoma, is a local Washingtonian who was born and raised in Snohomish County. She has previous experience covering statehouse politics and policy for the Minnesota Reformer and the USA TODAY Ohio Network, which includes the Columbus Dispatch, the Cincinnati Enquirer and the Akron-Beacon Journal.