Alabama’s Proposed “Bathroom Bill”: A Shift in Tactics

Jim Burroway

May 17th, 2016

Yesterday, I noted that Alabama State Sen. Phil Williams (R-Rainbow City, ironically) filed a filed a bill requiring anyone that makes restrooms available to the public to do so “in a manner that ensures the privacy of each individual.” That bit of news came from a brief article I found posted by the Florence Times Daily. Details were sketchy, but they included:

Williams said that can be done in three ways. By having:

• restroom, bathroom or changing facilities that are designed to be used by one person at a time.

• restroom, bathroom or changing facilities that are designed to be used by multiple persons of the same biological gender.

• restroom, bathroom or changing facilities that are designed to be used by multiple persons at once, irrespective of their gender, that are “staffed by an attendant stationed at the door of each restroom to monitor the appropriate use of the restroom and answer any questions or concerns posed by users.”

A few hours after I posted it and while I was doing other things away from the computer, I thought more about this and realized that there was something strange about this bill. Or, perhaps more accurately, the paper’s description of the bill, since I haven’t been able to find the bill itself. (It’s not yet listed on the Alabama Senate web site.) This bill, as far as I can tell so far, seems to focus exclusively on those who provide public facilities, and not on those who use them.

In other words, it seems to target Target more so than trans men and women. And in that way, it seems to anticipate the possibility that North Carolina’s law may be struck down in court. The law is currently being challenged by the ACLU and Lambda Legal, and by the Obama Administration in a separate case.

I wish I knew about this yesterday, but I found an op-ed Williams wrote last week for where he confirmed this approach:

Sen. Phil Williams

Sen. Phil Williams

As I write this, a big-box retailer with multiple outlets in this state has decided to make all of their multi-stall restrooms unisex, with a complete disregard for long-standing law, tradition and biology. More egregiously, this decision was made with no concern for the privacy and security concerns of their customers. In essence, Target has thrown out the rule in favor of the exception.

In North Carolina, the city of Charlotte passed an ordinance requiring public restrooms to allow persons to use bathrooms according to their own gender self-identification. … That law is being litigated even now and Alabama must be ready by the next legislative session to deal with the outcome.

…If North Carolina’s law is struck down then my legislation will become a backstop to say that if any person or entity provides public restrooms, bathrooms, or changing facilities then they will do so in one of three ways: a single user facility; facilities separated by the physical gender of the users; or, if facilities are provided in a unisex/transgender manner, an attendant for each facility must be onsite to address any concerns or questions of the general public. Failure to do so would result in civil penalties and provide a private right of action in court for those individuals who have been harmed or aggrieved.

Ben in Oaklnd

May 17th, 2016

in other words, nothing changes at all, unless someone wants to install a potty patrol.

By allowing someone to sue who is “aggrieved”, rather than harmed, the proposed bill offers a rash of lawsuits for your amusement.

enough already

May 17th, 2016

At this point, I’m left with two impressions:
1) We should have let Dixie go. Still should.
2) Conservative Christians have chosen transgender people as their next victims.


May 18th, 2016

enough already: I’ve been predicting your second point for a while: this is a group that needs an enemy. I don’t think it’s entirely coincidental that the demise of the Soviet Union coincided with the rise of the “Christian” right: the conservatives needed an enemy, and the shift in focus to gays and lesbians was a natural — another group that could be demonized with relative impunity. Well, ultimately, that didn’t work, so now it’s trans folk.

Al Raymond

May 19th, 2016

What’s to keep a predator who doesn’t even bother to dress or otherwise present as a woman, from falsely claiming to be a “woman” and demanding the right to invade the privacy of a women’s rest room or locker room? (And adding insult to injury, threatening to sue if he is denied access!)


May 19th, 2016

Al Raymond, I think sexual predators just walk to women’s rest room, there is no need to wear summer dress…
But think about this: Trans-man walks to ladies room. He is trans, but he has beard, he is big, regular man. You want this guy to use womens restrooms? Just because he was born a female? Now women will freak out. Oh, and trans-WOMAN in public men’s room, that is a great idea. Everybody freak out about creepy cisgender guys in women’s room, but what about trans-women? Not very safe for them in regular world, but men’s toilets are probably the worst place.

(I apologize for any mistakes in my English)

Priya Lynn

May 19th, 2016

“What’s to keep a predator who doesn’t even bother to dress or otherwise present as a woman, from falsely claiming to be a “woman” and demanding the right to invade the privacy of a women’s rest room or locker room? (And adding insult to injury, threatening to sue if he is denied access!)”.

A predator would be going into the women’s room to harass or assault women which remain against the law. If a predator didn’t intend to harass or assault women in the women’s room he wouldn’t have any desire to go in there in the first place. And cases of this have never happened in the jurisdictions that allow transgender people to use the bathroom of the gender they identify with so this is a non-issue.

A non-transgendered man can’t simply declare himself to be transgendered and get access to the women’s room. As in the case of gay refugees fleeing violence, he’d have to prove he was transgendered through the testimony of friends and family and mental health professionals and demonstrating a history of transgendered behavior which he wouldn’t be able to do.

Al, scenarios such as you have posited don’t happen in real life, they’re just used as an excuse to attempt to justify abusing trans women.

Richard Rush

May 20th, 2016

Al, it has been primarily religious fanatics, and politicians who pander to them, who have fraudulently and loudly fabricated a phony threat while silently creating a real threat of verbal and/or physical violence against transgender people.

They want laws to force transgender people to make a ‘Catch-22’ choice: If they use a restroom consistent with their transgender reality, they risk arrest and criminal charges, or if they use a restroom consistent with their birth certificate, they risk verbal and/or physical attack.

Ben in oakland

May 20th, 2016

Al Raymond,

Are you seriously suggesting that the only thing that keeps predators out of public restrooms is the lack of a law that allows them to go in? Are are you trying to say that heterosexual men can claim they are women in order to prey on women and girls, and that the issue of actual transgender people doing so is a complete fabrication?

Maybe the thing that keeps them out is the very real probability that they will be caught AS PREDATORS, and that is why there is no epidemic of that anywhere.

Eric Payne

May 21st, 2016

Somebody in Alabama is thinking long-term, and has found a way to get all those crack-addicted hoes off of the food stamps and welfare that’s paying for their lobster and Krystal… become a bathroom cop, and teach those public-assistance moochers the pride of earning a paycheck!

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