The town of Oxford, Alabama, has passed a bill that requires transgender individuals to use the bathroom that corresponds to their gender assigned at birth or face six months in jail, CNN is reporting.
Although the Alabama town’s law doesn’t mention it by name, the move was made in response to retailer Target’s recent announcement that individuals visiting the company’s stores can use whichever restroom they choose, whether that corresponds to their gender assigned at birth or to their gender identity.
Oxford, a town of about 21,000 people, is home to a Target location.
Media outlets are reporting 1 million people are boycotting Target. Here’s the truth. https://t.co/iNoiMK7Wpy pic.twitter.com/x3ors5nrkF
— ThinkProgress (@thinkprogress) April 28, 2016
Speaking to WBRC (Birmingham), Oxford city council president Steven Waits made it clear that the new law is in direct response to Target’s new policy.
“The policy creates an unsafe environment. It’s being put in to protect women, children and families from voyeurs, child molesters, exhibitionists, sexual predators and others who might use these policies to their advantage.”
Anyone who violates the law, a misdemeanor, would face a fine of up to $500 and up to six months in jail.
Enforcing the new transgender bathroom law may be easier said than done, however. Like any other misdemeanor in Alabama, someone would have to call the police to lodge a complaint, and then the police officer who responded would have to witness the crime. Then, the person who made the complaint would have to sign a warrant for the arrest of the individual.
The law does allow certain exceptions, such as, for example, a parent accompanying a child under the age of 12.
Oxford’s bathroom law is one of several new laws, ordinances, and directives to emerge in recent months in an attempt to govern which bathrooms transgender individuals can use. Perhaps most famously, individuals throughout North Carolina are required to use the bathroom that corresponds to their biological sex at birth thanks to the recently-passed HB2.
However, like Oxford’s bathroom bill, North Carolina’s HB2, which has caused several performers to cancel upcoming concerts in the state and caused PayPal to scrap plans to expand into the Tar Heel State, is going to be difficult to actually enforce.
— Saponaro, Inc (@SaponaroInc) April 26, 2016
Supporters of such laws, such as Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz, insist that they are necessary to keep voyeurs, molesters, and other perverts out of bathrooms, lest they use the cover of being transgender to gain access to members of the opposite sex — particularly children — at a private and vulnerable moment.
“Grown adult men — strangers — should not be alone in a bathroom with little girls. And that’s not conservative. That’s not Republican or Democrat. That’s basic common sense.”
LGBTQ advocates, meanwhile, say that concerns about perverts in bathrooms are overblown and that if anyone is going to be victimized in a bathroom, it’s likely to be a transgender individual. Such individuals, advocates say, face harassment, intimidation, and abuse for using the bathroom that corresponds to their biological sex, a claim backed up by a study by the Williams Institute and reported by Think Progress in 2013.
“Transgender and gender non-conforming people can find themselves in danger in the gendered spaces in our built environment. Until public policy and public administration can meet the challenge to address this problem and rethink our reliance on gender segregation in our built environment, the onus will always be on the individual to try to navigate these spaces safely.”
Do you believe that Oxford, Alabama, was right to pass a law that punished transgender individuals with jail for using the “wrong” bathroom?
[Image via Shutterstock/Flik47]