Florida and Alabama towns join gender bathroom war

A north Florida school board plans to limit restrooms to students based on their birth sex, not their gender identity.  The city of Oxford, Ala. has passed a similar ordinance.

(Tim Dominick/The State via AP)
The Trans Student Alliance at the University of South Carolina holds a rally and news conference at the state Capitol to protest a controversial bill that would ban transgender people from choosing the bathroom they use Wednesday, April 13, 2016, in Columbia, S.C. Louisiana's governor issued an executive order Wednesday banning discrimination in state government based on sexual orientation and gender identity, and transgender people in South Carolina told state senators that a bill requiring them to use a public bathroom corresponding to their "biological sex" puts them in danger of harassment.

A north Florida school board has approved a measure to limit restrooms to students based on their birth sex, not their gender identity.

The Marion County School Board approved the ban — effective Wednesday morning — during a meeting Tuesday. The decision came despite a warning from the American Civil Liberties Union that the ban is unlawful.

Board member Carol Ely says transgender students shouldn't get to choose which restroom to use, adding it's "reverse discrimination."

The district started allowing transgender students to choose their restroom two months ago. But a parent claimed his son's privacy rights were being violated because he's not comfortable sharing a restroom with a student who was born female but now identifies as male.

ACLU attorney Daniel Tilley tells The Ocala Star-Banner the group will represent any student needing assistance.

In South Carolina, a self-identified transgender student at Socastee High School in Horry County, S.C., was suspended after use the bathroom in January, The Christian Science Monitor reports.

He was suspended for using the boys' bathroom, which he had been using since the seventh grade, he says. And now the student and his family are fighting for the school district to change their policy.

The student and his family are petitioning the school district to pass a policy allowing students to use the bathroom that befits their gender identity rather than the sex they were assigned at birth. Thus far, the district has handled each school and student on an individual basis. 

The Transgender Law Center has threatened Horry County Schools with legal action in support of the family's efforts. In a letter to the district, the center also asked that the suspension be removed from the student's record.

"A lawsuit is a big deal. I just hate to go that route," the student's mother, who asked to go by Lynne, told WTVM. "I'd just rather sit down at a table and negotiate."

Meanwhile, the city of Oxford, Ala. has passed an ordinance making it illegal to use a public restroom different from the gender on a person's birth certificate.

Council President Steven Waits tells local news outlets the ordinance passed Tuesday came in response to Target's new restroom and changing room policies. Target announced the policies last week, which allow transgender employees and shoppers to use the restroom that matches their gender identity.

There is a Target store in the Oxford Exchange shopping center.

The ordinance makes the offense a misdemeanor. Oxford Police Chief Bill Partridge says the law will be enforced like any other city ordinance, such as noise violations or public indecency.

Violators of the ordinance could face a $500 fine or up to six months in jail.

of 5 stories this month > Get unlimited stories
You've read 5 of 5 free stories

Only $1 for your first month.

Get unlimited Monitor journalism.