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Alabama Privacy Act

A sign noting a restroom is available for use regardless of gender or gender identity. Courtesy of Andrew Kelley.

When North Carolina’s controversial bathroom bill was signed into law last year, the rights of transgender individuals came into the national spotlight. This move saw incredible backlash among businesses, celebrities and other states. The attention may soon shift to Alabama with the Alabama Privacy Act.

This bill, set to be introduced by State Senator Phil Williams in February, claims that it will protect the privacy of customers while using bathrooms or changing facilities. While Williams stated the intention of the bill is preservation of privacy, it is being viewed as a threat to the rights of transgender individuals.

The more controversial portion of the law applies to areas “irrespective of gender” like changing rooms and some bathrooms. There is to be an “attendant stationed at the door of each rest room to monitor the appropriate use” of the facility, according to the bill.  Williams feels that allowing transgender individuals to use restrooms that correspond to their gender identity is a threat to “people’s right and security,” according to an interview with ABC 3340.  He further explained that he just wants an “open and honest debate” on the topic.

Attitudes towards transgender individuals in Alabama are still evolving, and this bill could potentially allow a restroom attendant to deny access to people based on their gender identity.

The requirement for an attendant puts a burden on businesses to staff someone specifically for this purpose. The bill also imposes fines up to $3,500 for businesses that fail to provide an attendant.

As of this year, seven other states including Mississippi and Tennessee are considering or currently have bathroom bill legislation pending, bringing an even greater spotlight on transgender issues in 2017.

By Nathan Howell