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Alabama city votes to repeal 'bathroom' ordinance

The city council in Oxford, Alabama, has voted 3-2 to repeal a new ordinance that would have prevented transgender people from using public restroom facilities consistent with their gender identity.

This measure was unprecedented in its establishment of criminal penalties for violations — including a $500 fine or six months in jail — and raised privacy and legal concerns regarding how the law would have been enforced.

The council’s action during a special meeting this week came within a 10-day recall window.

Also, 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 in a news release.

She continued, “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."

Prior to the council vote, the ACLU issued a series of statements on the issue:

“I love the City of Oxford. While I don’t wish to fight the city, my son is worth fighting for. I hope the council does the right thing and recalls this ordinance,” said Oxford resident Sherry Matthews, whose transgender son would have been impacted by the ordinance.

“This proposed ordinance, like the hundreds we’ve seen introduced in legislatures across the country, many of which we are challenging, will do nothing to protect privacy or public safety, but will unfortunately harm Oxford residents and others who come here — solely based on who they are. We urge the city council to stand on the right side of history and indeed on the right side of the law and not write discrimination into law,” said Susan Watson, executive director of the ACLU of Alabama.

“Discrimination has no place in 21st century Alabama. Yet, that was the path taken by the Oxford City Council when it voted to criminalize transgender people for simply using the restroom,” said Chinyere Ezie, staff attorney with the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Ezie continued: “Misunderstanding and fear should never guide public policy decisions. Transgender people, like anybody else, should not be treated differently simply because of who they are. Fortunately, city council members have the opportunity to repeal this ordinance. Not only is repeal the right thing to do, it will protect city taxpayers from a potentially expensive lawsuit.”

The council’s decision to recall the ordinance comes as similar proposals are being rejected at the state and local level across the country.

Earlier this week, the city council in Rockwall, Texas, unanimously rejected a measure 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.

Also, earlier this year, South Dakota Gov. 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 this week the U.S. Department of Justice notified Gov. Pat McCrory that the law violates the U.S. Civil Rights Act.

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