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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, April 29, 2016 - Volume 44 Issue 18
Alabama town wants to send Trans folks to jail, ACLU may sue
Section One
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Alabama town wants to send Trans folks to jail, ACLU may sue

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

The ACLU says it is considering filing a lawsuit against Oxford, Ala., after Oxford's city council passed an ordinance banning Transgender residents from using gender-appropriate restrooms.

The Oxford ordinance makes it a crime 'for a person to utilize a multiple occupancy or changing facility' in facilities 'designated for use by the opposite biological sex.'

It defines 'biological sex' as 'the physical condition of being male or female, which is stated on a person's birth certificate.'

Violators could be fined $500 or jailed for up to six months.

Randall Marshal, legal director of the ACLU of Alabama, said the affiliate is 'looking at the ordinance and is interested in any potential challenge.' He added that criminal penalties prescribed by the ordinance passed Tuesday night 'increase the chances of a constitutional challenge.'

Chase Strangio, a staff attorney for the ACLU's national office, said the ordinance is apparently the first of its kind in the United States.

'It seems that this kind of law comes pretty close to just criminalizing the status of being transgender, which simply cannot be squared with the Constitution or, I would hope, our basic moral decency as human beings,' Strangio told BuzzFeed News.

'It is plainly sex discrimination when the government acts to expel transgender people from engaging in public life solely because trans people by definition don't conform to expectations of gender norms,' he added.

According to the Anniston Star newspaper, the Oxford City Council was reacting to an announcement from the retail giant Target that its customers were welcome to use restrooms corresponding with their gender identity. Target has a store in an Oxford mall.

The Oxford City Council unanimously passed the ban on April 26. The measure applies to 'any business or location open for utilization by members of the general public.'

Restrooms in such locations are places where people risk molestation and assault, councilmembers said.

Oxford City Council President Steven Waits said he was acting 'not out of concerns for the 0.3 percent of the population who identify as transgender' but 'to protect our women and children.'

Currently 17 states and more than 200 cities have laws on the books protecting Transgender people in public facilities, with no documented cases of nondiscrimination laws being used to promote or defend predatory behavior in restrooms.

Oxford police chief Bill Partridge said the new law would be enforced like any other city ordinance, such as noise violations or public indecency.

'If somebody sees something that makes them uncomfortable, they would call the police,' he said. 'If the person is still there when the officer arrives, the officer has to witness the crime. Then we take down the person's information, and the person who reported it has to sign out a warrant.'

The ACLU has launched several legal battles over Transgender restroom access, most recently filing a lawsuit in March charging that a North Carolina law violates the 14th Amendment and civil rights laws that ban sex discrimination.

Unlike the Oxford ordinance, however, the North Carolina statute applies only to government buildings.

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