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Alabama town repeals anti-transgender restroom ordinance

The city of Oxford, Alabama, repealed an ordinance today that made it a crime for transgender people to use the public restroom that matches their gender identity. Earlier, the SPLC and ACLU demanded the city repeal the ordinance, or risk legal action.

The City Council repealed the measure by a vote of 3-2. In a letter submitted to council members earlier today, the SPLC described how the discriminatory ordinance violated the U.S. Constitution and put the northeast Alabama city at risk of losing federal funding. The SPLC said failure to repeal the ordinance would force it to consider legal action.

“The Oxford City Council did the right thing by recalling its discriminatory ordinance,” said Chinyere Ezie, SPLC staff attorney. “We are pleased the council members came to the conclusion that nobody should be criminalized simply for using the restroom.”

The city passed the ordinance last week after the retailer Target announced transgender people may use the restroom that corresponds with their gender identity, rather than the gender they were assigned at birth. Oxford’s ordinance made it a misdemeanor for a transgender person to use the restroom that matched their gender identity. Penalties included a $500 fine or six months in jail. The ordinance came as laws restricting the rights of transgender people have been passed in North Carolina and Mississippi.

The SPLC letter notes that the Oxford ordinance violated the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment by targeting transgender people for “different and unequal treatment.” It also violated the due process clause. The letter points to the “broad reach and lack of enforcement mechanisms”  of the ordinance that left unclear “whether people risk arrest simply for failing to carry their birth certificates to the restroom at all times.” The city also endangered federal funding because the ordinance violated federal civil rights laws, including Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, which bars sex discrimination in public schools.

The law also threatened the privacy rights of city residents who are not transgender.

“The very women and children the Ordinance purports to protect may be forced to carry their birth certificates around with them and submit to ‘gender inspections’ in order to gain access to the restroom,” says the letter, which was also signed by the American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU Foundation of Alabama.

Download the letter (PDF) or view it below:

Photo credit: Rivers Langley; SaveRivers