Rep. Jesse Young (R-Gig Harbor) of the 26th Legislative District held his first 2017 town hall March 11 at the city council chambers in Gig Harbor. The scheduled 90 minute event was “the largest town hall meeting we’ve ever had,” Young said, as he faced the standing-room-only crowd.
“I’m going to honor you with my candor and my availability toward you,” he said.
The line of constituents wanting to ask questions extended well into the back of the room. The meeting was orderly and the atmosphere civil, with nearly every constituent who spoke thanking Young for his willingness to hold town hall meetings.
Among other issues, Young was asked about his co-sponsorship of HB 1011, which would permit transgender persons to restrooms on private or public property if the transgender individual has completed sexual reassignment surgery.
“Based on the fact there are 3,000 transgender children in secondary and primary schools in the state of Washington, with your strong support of family values in mind, what are you doing to actively support those families with transgender children?” asked a woman who identified herself only as Rebecca from Olalla.
“I believe gender should be based on your DNA,” Young said. “I believe that is the only substantive style that we can ever have concrete civil rights liberties based upon. If you start getting into relative terms, civil rights go out the door … If somebody’s had the surgery, then go, but if not, I don’t want my girls in the bathroom with a guy coming in.”
HB 1011 failed to make it out of committee this session.
Young was also asked about sponsoring HB 1602 in reaction to the much publicized suspension and ultimate dismissal of Bremerton High School Assistant Coach Joe Kennedy for kneeling in prayer on the 50 yard line at the end of school football games. Young said the Bremerton School District was forced to punish Kennedy out of fear of lawsuits by activist groups. He authored HB 1602 to protect freedom of speech and religious exercise, he said. If signed into law, the bill would make school districts immune from liability for allowing prayer in public spaces.
One constituent commented on the prayer recited at the beginning of the meeting, telling Young, “It didn’t feel very inclusive to have a prayer in Jesus’ name when we are a culture of many faiths.”
HB 1602 also failed to make it out of committee during this session.
Nelson Stansbury of Olalla asked, “How can I reach you to make an appointment to talk with you if you don’t answer your emails? Do you have a local office where constituents can meet with you?” Stansbury said he emailed Young numerous times but received no reply, unlike his experiences with state Sen. Jan Angel (R-Port Orchard) and Rep. Michelle Caldier (R-Gig Harbor).
Young said he does not have a paid staff but has “volunteers covering my desk.” He asked if everyone understood that no representative or senator in this state has an office in district when the Legislature is in session. “We are all required to have our offices in Olympia while in session,” he said.
In late January, The Associated Press reported the state House of Representatives was taking action against Young to address “a pattern of hostile and intimidating behavior” toward staff. A Dec. 13 letter from House counsel Alison Hellberg stated that Young is prohibited from maintaining an office within his district for a period of one year and will not have a supervisory role over a replacement legislative aide.
“The allegations are both credible and serious,” the letter from Hellberg read.
Another constituent asked if Young would comply with the letter from the House counsel to take anger management and management technique classes.
“No, I have not signed on to that,” Young said.
Young said he intends to file a lawsuit against the House over the issue, citing violation of his basic civil right to due process. “I have nothing to hide,” he said.