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Washington state activists turn in 420K-plus signatures for parents' bill of rights initiative

Lawmakers in Democratic-controlled Legislature have several options: pass initiative during upcoming session; take no action and let it go to the ballot; or pass an alternative proposal.

Published: December 12, 2023 11:00pm

(The Center Square) -

Voter advocacy group Let’s Go Washington dropped off more than 420,000 signatures at the Secretary of State’s office in Tumwater on Tuesday afternoon to qualify Initiative 2081 for the 2024 ballot.

I-2081 was designed to provide parents and guardians with a right to review educational materials, receive certain notifications, and opt out of certain sexual health education programs.

Initiatives are required to receive nearly 325,000 verified signatures to qualify for the ballot. Let’s Go Washington dropped off 423,399 signatures, nearly 100,000 more signatures than required to qualify.

Let’s Go Washington founder Bryan Heywood of Redmond described I-2081 to the assembled crowd as “a step to re-establish in the state of Washington that parents are the primary stakeholder in the raising of children.”

He continued, making a reference to Senate Bill 5599 that passed the Legislature this session and was signed into law by Gov. Jay Inslee. SB 5599 allows youth shelters, host homes, and state agencies to not inform estranged parents about runaway youths seeking abortions or irreversible gender surgeries.

“Over the last 10 years, there’s been a series of laws that have begun to establish this sort of corrupt idea that somehow most parents are bad and the state is good – there’s only a few exceptions of good parents,” Heywood said. “And I would like to push back very strongly today and say the assumption must be – the assumption must be – that parents love their children, although there are exceptions, rather than the other way around.”

Heywood said current law and I-2081 explicitly make exemptions for young people in danger due to abuse and the like, but reiterated that it should be assumed that parents, not the state, generally know what’s best for their kids.

“I believe that the presumption should be that parents know how to love their children, know how to teach and guide their children better than any state government employee,” he said.

I-2081 citizen sponsor state Rep. Jim Walsh, R-Aberdeen, who is also chair of the Washington State Republican Party, explicitly mentioned SB 5599 when asked about the turnout and enthusiasm of those dropping off signatures.

“We started it when Senate Bill 5599 was just enacted, so there was a lot of motivation because of unhappiness around 5599,” he said. “So that is motivating, that is strongly motivating.”

While SB 599 became a target in the culture wars, Walsh framed I-2081 as a positive.

“It’s not a rejection of anything, it’s not an opposition to anything,” he said. “It’s an assertion and a defense of an essential right – parental rights. Critics will try to cast it as being some kind of negative assertion. It’s a very positive assertion. It’s not against anything. It’s pro-parental rights.”

Assuming I-2081 qualifies with enough valid signatures, lawmakers in the Democratic-controlled Legislature have several options: pass it during the upcoming legislative session; take no action and let it go to the ballot; or pass an alternative proposal, which would see both I-2018 and the alternative proposal placed on the ballot at the next state general election.

Last month, Let’s Go Washington submitted nearly 420,000 signatures for Initiative 2117 to repeal Washington’s cap-and-trade system.

On Thursday, Let’s Go Washington plans to turn in signatures at the same location for Initiative 2113 to remove certain restrictions on police officers’ ability to engage in vehicular pursuits.

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