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Washington’s Parenting Rights Act criticized for allowing a ‘forced outing’ measure to take effect

SEATTLE (AP) — A new parental rights law in Washington state is being derided by critics as a “forced outing” measure. will take effect this week after a court commissioner declined Tuesday to issue an emergency order to temporarily block it.

The civil liberties groups, school district, child welfare organizations and others challenging the law have not shown that it would cause the immediate harm necessary to justify blocking it until a district court judge can review the case, King County Superior Court Commissioner said Mark Hillman. A court hearing is scheduled for June 21.

The law, known as Initiative 2081, underlines and in some cases expands rights already afforded to parents under state and federal law. The law requires schools to notify parents in advance of medical services offered to their child, except in emergencies, and of medical treatments arranged by the school that result in follow-up care outside normal hours. It gives parents the right to view their child’s medical and counseling records and expands the cases in which parents can opt their child out of sex education.

Critics say the measure could harm students who go to school clinics seeking access to contraception, 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 don’t 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 new laws not to revise or repeal old ones without explicitly saying so.

For example, state law guarantees the privacy of medical records for youth who are 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 view school medical records, prosecutors said, but it does not specifically say it would change the existing privacy law.

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

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

Hillman said during the hearing that he sympathized with the concerns of the groups challenging the measure, but that the harm they claimed was only speculative.

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

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