At a special meeting earlier today, the Oxford, Ala, City Council voted 3-2 to repeal a discriminatory new ordinance that would have prevented transgender residents and visitors from using public restroom facilities consistent with their gender identity. This anti-transgender law was unprecedented in its establishment of criminal penalties for violations -- including a $500 fine or 6 months in jail -- and raised a myriad of privacy and legal concerns regarding how the law would have been enforced. The council’s action came during a 10-day recall window; the ordinance had not yet been signed by the mayor.
“It’s a great day in the state of Alabama and we commend Councilperson Charlotte Hubbard for leading the recall effort,” said HRC Alabama State Director Eva Walton Kendrick. “This sends a welcome message of inclusion to Oxford’s families, businesses and visitors, and sets an example for other communities that may be considering similar legislation. Fair-minded Americans do not believe in discrimination, and we must continue to educate one another on the importance of being inclusive and welcoming to all. ”
The Oxford City Council’s decision to recall the ordinance comes as similar proposals are being rejected at the state and local level across the country. On Monday, 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 earlier this year vetoed legislation that limited restroom use for transgender children in public schools, 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. The state is facing a federal court challenge and fierce backlash, and today the U.S. Department of Justice notified Gov. Pat McCrory that the law violates the U.S. Civil Rights Act.
Oxford’s ordinance was unprecedented in that it enumerated criminal penalties, including the potential for jail time, for violations. It also applied to bathrooms and locker rooms citywide, including in private businesses, which went 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.