Washington parental rights law criticized as a 'forced outing' measure is allowed to take effect


SEATTLE — A new Washington state parental rights law derided by critics as a “forced outing” measure will be allowed to take effect this week after a court commissioner on Tuesday declined to issue an emergency order temporarily blocking it.

The civil liberties groups, school district, youth services organizations and others who are challenging the law did not show that it would create the kind of imminent harm necessary to warrant blocking it until a trial court judge can consider the matter, King County Superior Court Commissioner Mark Hillman said. A hearing before the judge is scheduled for June 21.

The law, known as Initiative 2081, underscores, and in some cases expands, the rights already granted to parents under state and federal law. It requires schools to notify parents in advance of medical services offered to their child, except in emergencies, and of medical treatment arranged by the school resulting in follow-up care beyond normal hours. It grants parents the right to review their child’s medical and counseling records and expands cases where parents can opt their child out of sex education.

Critics say the measure could harm students who go to school clinics seeking access to birth control, referrals for reproductive services, counseling related to their gender identity or sexual orientation, or treatment or support for sexual assault or domestic violence. In many of those cases, the students do not want their parents to know, they note.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Washington and other groups challenging the measure say it violates the state Constitution, which requires that new laws not revise or revoke old laws without explicitly saying so.

For example, state law ensures the privacy of medical records for young people authorized to receive care, including abortions, without parental consent. The law would give parents the right to be notified before their child receives care and the ability to review school medical records, the plaintiffs said, but it does not specifically say that it amends the existing privacy law.

The initiative was backed by Brian Heywood, a conservative megadonor who has said the measure was not designed to give parents veto power over their child’s decision to access counseling or medical treatment. “It’s just saying they have a right to know,” he said.

The Democratic-led Legislature overwhelmingly approved it in March, with progressive lawmakers wanting to keep it off the fall ballot and calculating that courts would likely block it.

Hillman said during the hearing that he was sympathetic to the concerns of the groups challenging the measure, but the harms they had alleged were only speculative.

William McGinty, an attorney for the state, argued that the law is constitutional and the plaintiffs had not demonstrated that they were entitled to a temporary restraining order.



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