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Alabama city criminalizes use of bathrooms in anti-transgender ordinance

The city council in Oxford, Alabama, has unanimously approved an ordinance preventing transgender people from using public bathrooms and other facilities consistent with their gender identity.

The ordinance goes beyond other regulations and imposes a $500 fine or six months in jail on violators.

The Human Rights Campaign, the nation's largest LGBT civil rights group, says the ordinance is unprecedented in its establishment of criminal penalties for violations and raises a myriad of privacy and legal concerns, including questions about how the law will be enforced.

The ordinance lacks 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.”

Anti-LGBT activists who back such measures say they are needed as a safeguard. These advocates for the policies most often offer up arguments about adult men posing as transgender women to prey upon girls in women's restrooms.

However, states with laws protecting transgender people’s access to the appropriate bathroom have seen no increase in public safety incidents.

Additionally, a coalition of more than 250 sexual assault prevention organizations released a statement last week decrying policies like the one adopted in Oxford this week.

Oxford is now the first city in the nation to enact such a law.

With the passage of HB2 earlier this spring, North Carolina became the first state to enact an anti-transgender bathroom bill.

Oxford’s ordinance, however, 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 provision in North Carolina’s law, which applies to government buildings, according to HRC.

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