Post submitted by Ianthe Metzger, former HRC Deputy Press Secretary
Today, HRC Alabama condemned the passage of an anti-transgender ordinance by the Oxford, Ala. City Council. Unanimously approved, the ordinance prevents transgender residents and visitors from using public restrooms and other facilities consistent with their gender identity, and imposes a $500 fine or 6 months in jail on violators. This anti-transgender law is unprecedented in its establishment of criminal penalties for violations of the law, and raises a myriad of privacy and legal concerns, including questions about how the law will be enforced. There is 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.
“This ordinance is a shameful and vile attack on the rights and privacy of transgender people,” said HRC Alabama State Manager Eva Walton Kendrick. “Transgender people are our neighbors, our coworkers and our fellow churchgoers, and every Alabamian has the right to live their lives without fear of discrimination and prejudice. Throughout the country elected officials from both sides of the aisle, along with hundreds of business leaders and advocates throughout the country have resoundingly rejected these kinds of proposals, which only seek to demean and marginalize the transgender community.”
Despite claims to the contrary by anti-LGBT activists who have preyed on misinformation and ignorance, states with laws protecting transgender people’s access to the appropriate bathroom have seen no increase in public safety incidents. In fact, a coalition of more than 250 sexual assault prevention organizations released a statement last week decrying policies like the one passed in Oxford last night.
Oxford is now the first city in the nation to enact such a law attacking the transgender community, even as similar proposals have been rejected at the state level across the country. South Dakota Governor Dennis Daugaard vetoed legislation that limited restroom use for transgender children in public schools earlier this year, and just last week, the sponsor of a similar bill in Tennessee announced plans to pull the legislation from consideration this legislative session.
With the passage of HB2, North Carolina became the first state to enact this type of legislation and is currently 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 the similar provision in North Carolina’s law which applies to government buildings.
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.