Oxford city council repeals transgender bathroom ordinance

Oxford city council repeals transgender bathroom ordinance
The agenda for the special-called Oxford City Council meeting. Source: Melanie Posey/WBRC
The agenda for the special-called Oxford City Council meeting. Source: Melanie Posey/WBRC
Oxford City Hall. Source: Dixon Hayes/WBRC
Oxford City Hall. Source: Dixon Hayes/WBRC
The Oxford Exchange Target. Source: WBRC video
The Oxford Exchange Target. Source: WBRC video

OXFORD, AL (WBRC) - Oxford city councilors met at 2:30 p.m. Wednesday and voted 3-2 to recall the ordinance that made it illegal for people to use a public bathroom that is different from the gender on their birth certificate.

Three councilors voted to repeal the law and two voted in opposition to the repeal.

The meeting was held in the Council Chambers of Oxford City Hall and the council chamber reached their capacity of 100 people about 18 minutes before the meeting was set to begin.

The only item on the meeting agenda was "Resolution No. 2016-56—Resolution to recall Ordinance No. 2016-18."

After the agenda item and ordinance was read aloud, Council President Steven Waits announced that the mayor has not yet signed the ordinance due to health issues. He then opened up a question and comment period.

Councilor Charlotte Hubbard read several reasons why the ordinance should be repealed. This includes concerns from the city attorney over Title IX violations.

Councilor Chris Spulin made his comments next. He said the council is expected to provide safety for residents and the answer in this case is to amend the ordinance, not repeal it. Some audience members clapped at this last statement.

Councilor Mike Henderson shared that the council's attorney told them he has serious concerns of possible implications of the ordinance. The city attorney recommended that the council research and confer with their legislative delegation to potentially amend the ordinance.

Waits added that he feels the ordinance is a common sense concept and that public safety shouldn't be compromised for the general public because "of the personal decisions of a few."

Waits said last week that the ordinance addressed a public safety issue.

The was passed in response to Target's policy allowing employees and shoppers to use bathrooms and changing rooms that match their gender identity. There is a Target store in the Oxford Exchange.

Waits has suggested that Target's policy would make it easier for sexual predators to assault possible victims.

When asked if the law then associates transgender people with sexual predators, Waits replied "that's not the spirit of this law."

As we learned today, there could also be an economic component to this repeal. On Monday, the Ohio Valley Conference (OVC) Board of Presidents voted to move their 2016 softball championship tournament from Choccolocco Park in Oxford to the Jacksonville State University campus "due to the discriminatory intent" of Oxford's bathroom ordinance.

"The OVC Board of Presidents wanted to ensure that no one associated with the championship would be subject to any type of discrimination," the board said in a statement.

Equality Calhoun is still planning on holding a protest at Oxford Lake this Saturday from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. to protest LGBT discrimination.

The board has reversed this decision now that the council has repealed the bathroom ordinance.

After the repeal, the Southern Poverty Law Center released this statement from staff attorney Chinyere Ezie:

The Oxford City Council did the right thing by recalling its discriminatory ordinance. We are pleased the council members came to the conclusion that nobody should be criminalized simply for using the restroom.

The Human Rights Campaign released this statement from State Director Eva Walton Kendrick on the repeal:

It's a great day in the state of Alabama and we commend Councilperson Charlotte Hubbard for leading the recall effort. 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. "

The Southern Poverty Law Center and American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Alabama released statements earlier on Wednesday demanding that Oxford repeals the ordinance, which they said leaves them open to legal liability.

SPLC statement

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. "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.

ACLU of Alabama statement from Susan Watson, Executive Director of the ACLU of Alabama

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.

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