Today, HRC Alabama responded to the Oxford, Ala., City Council’s decision to hold a special meeting tomorrow to consider the fate of a horrific, anti-transgender ordinance by calling for repeal of the measure, which was unanimously approved last week. The new law prevents transgender residents and visitors from using public restrooms and other facilities consistent with their gender identity, and imposes a $500 fine or six months in jail on violators.
“Nothing short of full repeal of this outrageous law is acceptable,” said HRC Alabama State Manager Eva Walton Kendrick. “One need only look to the fierce backlash North Carolina is facing over its anti-transgender law HB2, and the chorus of GOP voices opposed to this sort of discrimination, to know that this is a losing issue. Our state can do better than this and we urge the fair-minded residents of Oxford to let their City Council members know that this sort of hate has no place in Alabama.”
Oxford’s anti-transgender law is unprecedented, the first in the nation to attack transgender people by establishing criminal penalties for violations of the law, raising a myriad of privacy and legal concerns, including questions about how the law will be enforced. There has been no clarity on whether all people in Oxford will be expected to produce birth certificates when using public facilities or, if not, how law enforcement officials will obtain evidence of people’s assigned sex at birth. The American Civil Liberties Union has already announced a possible legal challenge to the law.
Proposals similar to Oxford’s have been rejected at the state and local level across the country. Just yesterday, the City Council of Rockwall, Texas, unanimously rejected a bill proposed by Mayor Jim Pruitt that would have prohibited transgender people from using restrooms consistent with their gender identities. Scores of community members also came to speak out against that proposal.
At the state level, South Dakota Governor Dennis Daugaard vetoed legislation that limited restroom use for transgender children in public schools earlier this year, and last month, the sponsor of a similar bill in Tennessee announced plans to pull the legislation from consideration this legislative session. With its passage of the anti-transgender HB2, North Carolina became the first state to enact this type of legislation and is facing a federal court challenge and fierce backlash.
Oxford’s ordinance is unprecedented in that it enumerates criminal penalties, including the potential for jail time, for violations. It also applies to bathrooms and locker rooms citywide, including in private businesses, which goes further than similar provision in North Carolina’s law which applies to government buildings and schools.
In 2014, HRC launched Project One America, an initiative geared towards advancing social, institutional and legal equality in Mississippi, Alabama and Arkansas. HRC Alabama continues to work to advance equality for LGBT Alabamians who have no statewide protections in housing, workplace, or public accommodations; and legal state recognition for their relationships and families. Through HRC Alabama, we are working toward a future of fairness every day—changing hearts, minds and laws toward achieving full equality.