Washington residents submit referendum to ‘Reject 5599’

During the 2023 legislative session, a highly partisan bill, ESSB 5599, was passed in Washington state, allowing shelters to bypass parental notification when providing gender-related medical interventions and abortions to homeless or runaway youth, leading to a referendum campaign seeking to reject the bill.

ESSB 5599, passed this year by the Democrat majority in the legislature, allows homeless or runaway youth to receive ‘protected health care services’ without notice to the child’s parents

Leah Anaya
For Clark County Today

During the 2023 legislative session, a highly partisan bill, ESSB 5599, was passed regarding homeless or runaway youth seeking what’s referred to as “protected health care services.” These services are spelled out in RCW 74.09.675 to be gender-related medical intervention, such as puberty blockers, sex change surgeries, and mastectomies, as well as “reproductive health care” or abortions. 

In the bill, certain shelters and organizations are exempt from the requirement to contact the parents when the child enters the shelter. Instead, the shelters contact the state. The shelters must have both registered with the Secretary of State and agreed to follow specific protocols in such a situation, like referring the child to behavioral health services and family reunification. However, it’s written in state law, “The secretary of state has no duty to confirm that a host home program is meeting its statutory requirements.”

When such a youth enters the shelter, they’re then placed under the guardianship of the host home under the Department of Youth and Family (DCYF). Those guardians can then give the child consent for gender-related services or abortion. There is no minimum age enumerated in the bill.

The bill was voted for by every Democrat legislator and voted against by every Republican legislator, in the House and State Senate. In Clark County, those lawmakers who voted to pass ESB 5599 were Sen. Annette Cleveland and Representatives Monica Stonier and Sharon Wylie, all Democrats.

“This should not be a partisan issue,” said Jennifer Heine-Withee of the Family Policy Institute of Washington. “This bill allows the state to hide children from their parents at a time when the child is in crisis and needs the parent more than ever. Then, the state can consent on their behalf to allow the child to get whatever gender transition service they want. There isn’t even room for due process – if a child says their parent won’t be supportive of the change, that’s all it takes, and that child can be put in a ‘host home’ without disclosing their location to the parents.”

Sen. Ann Rivers said that over 90 percent of public comments received on 5599 were against it, and yet the legislature passed it. A group of Washington residents have written and submitted Referendum 101 with the slogan to Reject 5599 in order to take the matter to voters.

While legacy media has painted the original bill as protecting children, the language of the actual bill says otherwise. In an article, the Associated Press wrote, “The bill does not address custody and would not result in the state taking children away from their homes and parents.” In the 10-page bill, it’s indeed written that a shelter or host home shall contact a parent of a runaway youth, unless, it says, there are “compelling reasons” not to. “Compelling reasons” are defined in the bill as a child being subject to abuse or neglect, or “when a minor is seeking or receiving protected health care services,” which are defined as gender transitions and abortions.

“What the new law does,” the Reject 5599 website reads, “is rebrand involved parents as abusers so that shelters and host homes can contact DCYF instead of the parents to notify families of their child’s whereabouts.”

Dawn Land, who submitted Referendum 101, said, “It’s not about parents versus kids. It’s everyone versus the state, with children caught in the middle.”

“Under the law,” says the Reject 5599 website, “parents lose the right to be directly notified by the host home as to their child’s whereabouts and the state is involved in deciding whether or not parents can take their own child back home. Clearly, the parents have no custody rights under this new law.”

On the topic, Gov. Jay Inslee said, “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. In the real world we want these kids to be protected and not homeless and that’s basically the reason for this bill.”

Advocates working on gathering signatures for Referendum 101 say that they are certainly in favor of protecting youth, but not in the way that 5599 changes things. Runaway youth, they say, already have access to shelters and services as needed. But 5599 gives explicit rights to the state to consent to children undergoing major medical procedures related to the child’s gender, or to get an abortion, while removing parents from the equation altogether.

Locations will be set up all over Washington state in an effort to gather the necessary 200,000 signatures by July 15 (20,000 of which are required of Clark County) to get Referendum 101 on the ballot. The website will soon include an interactive map to find a signing location, and anyone can sign up on the website to volunteer to gather signatures.

Local Precinct Committee Officer and activist Cemal Richards told Clark County Today that there will be a table set up at the mall for the group Let’s Go Washington, which will also include petitions for Referendum 101. 

“The table will be set up this whole week until 7 p.m. Saturday and then again July 5-14, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.. We shouldn’t have any problem getting the signatures we need.”

“The main thing to remember,” said Richards, “is that we need to reject Referendum 101 in order to reject Senate Bill 5599. That’s how we really protect our kids.”

Should Washington voters have the opportunity to Reject ESSB 5599?*
712 votes

Also read:

Receive comment notifications
Notify of

Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x