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Oxford council rebukes Target bathroom policy with new ordinance

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Target in Oxford

Target at the Oxford Exchange.   

OXFORD — The City Council on Tuesday made it illegal for anyone to use a public bathroom that doesn’t align with the gender they were born with.

The new law, approved unanimously by the council’s members, restricts a person’s use of public bathrooms and changing rooms to the facilities designated for use by those of the gender listed on his or her birth certificate. The law applies within both the city’s limits and police jurisdiction.

After members approved the new city ordinance, Council President Steven Waits read from a prepared statement.

Waits said he and the council sought the law “not out of concerns for the 0.3 percent of the population who identify as transgender,” but “to protect our women and children.”

He said the measure isn’t meant to be discriminatory, and comes in direct response to the bathroom and changing-room usage policy put forth by supermarket chain Target, which has a store at Oxford’s Exchange shopping center.

The company posted that policy in a blog on its website last week, referencing “recent debate around proposed laws in several states.”

That debate has been heated in North Carolina, where news outlets report that scores of protesters have been arrested this week while demonstrating for or against a statewide law that extends similar restroom restrictions.

“We welcome transgender team members and guests to use the restroom or fitting room facility that corresponds with their gender identity,” read the company’s post, put online last Tuesday.

Waits said he’s received an “overwhelming” number of complaints from city residents regarding the company’s policy since it was announced.

Under the new law, alleged violations must be reported by a witness or committed in front of a police officer to be prosecutable.

Those found to have violated the law would be fined $500, or sentenced to six months in jail.

There are some exceptions to the new rule, though: Adults are allowed to accompany children under the age of 12 into the restroom. Those who need to do janitorial or maintenance work, to offer emergency medical assistance, or to assist the disabled, likewise are permitted to enter any bathroom.

In other business, the council:

  • Heard that a public meeting will be held Thursday at the Oxford Civic Center at 6 p.m. concerning the city’s comprehensive developmentplan. Residents are invited to attend the meeting and share their thoughts on that plan.
  • Awarded a contract to build a new armed forces- and law enforcement-themed city park at the Oxford Civic Center to Morris Building Constructors. The park’s cost is pegged at $481,500.
  • Agreed to spend about $18,000 more on work on the city’s sports complex, Choccolocco Park. The work consists of installing more phone and Internet lines, as well as ordering devices that will connect computers and other equipment to fiber optic cable supplying high-speed Internet to the park.
  • Agreed to spend $750 on a survey of 104 and 108 Spring Branch Road, where council members last year demolished a hotel and now want to know how much the land is worth. Council members also approved a donation of $2,500 toward Law Enforcement Appreciation Week, a local initiative that this year will see area cops getting free lunches for one week.
  • Approved two applications to provide wrecker services in the city, one from Reid’s Auto and the other Alabama Body Shop. The council also reappointed David Mayfield and Ty Corban to the Zoning Board of Adjustments for terms expiring in 2019.

Staff writer Zach Tyler: 256-235-3564. On Twitter @ZTyler_Star.