The Oxford City Council voted against a new bathroom ordinance that would have created stiffer penalties for sexually predatory behavior in public restrooms and was, some argued, a renewed attempt to legislate discrimination against transgender individuals. The ordinance was introduced by Councilmember Charlotte Hubbard after the Council rescinded a law that specifically targeted transgender people.
According to The Anniston Star, the new ordinance prompted discussion among the council, including Hubbard, of whether there was really any need for the measure.
No one has complained to me that people don’t feel safe in the restroom. – Charlotte Hubbard, Oxford City Council
But Council President Steven Waits and Councilmember Chris Spurlin made it known that bigotry was their primary motivation.
The fundamental issue is that we have people who’ve opened the doors of these restrooms for anybody to go into. I just don’t think [this new ordinance] addresses the fundamental issues. – Steven Waits, President, Oxford City Council
This all comes amidst a heated dispute between the federal government and North Carolina over that state’s anti-trans bathroom bill known as HB 2. The state has refused to abandon the law despite the possibility of losing $2.2 billion in federal education funding.
President Obama will issue a directive to all public school districts today instructing them to allow transgender students to use the bathroom that aligns with their gender identity. As reported by The New York Times, the letter reads in part:
A school may not require transgender students to use facilities inconsistent with their gender identity or to use individual-user facilities when other students are not required to do so. [A school’s obligation under federal law] to ensure nondiscrimination on the basis of sex requires schools to provide transgender students equal access to educational programs and activities even in circumstances in which other students, parents, or community members raise objections or concerns. As is consistently recognized in civil rights cases, the desire to accommodate others’ discomfort cannot justify a policy that singles out and disadvantages a particular class of students.
No student should ever have to go through the experience of feeling unwelcome at school or on a college campus. – John B. King Jr., U.S. Secretary of Education
The fight for transgender rights in Alabama and across the country is far from over. Transgender people are far more likely to be the victims of violence than the perpetrators and experience much higher rates of depression and suicide, at least partially as a result of discrimination. The LGBTQ+ community is lining up powerful allies in the struggle for equality, so we can hopefully soon start to focus on the kinds of bathroom laws that actually matter.