Alabama city rescinds Target bathroom ordinance

Eight days after passing an ordinance adopted to protest Target's policy of letting people use the bathroom that matches their gender identity, the city council in Oxford, Alabama, has had a change of heart.

Council members voted 3-2 on Wednesday to rescind its controversial restroom measure, which had made it a misdemeanor -- punishable by a $500 fine or six months in jail -- to use a public bathroom differing from one's birth gender.

One council member who voted to repeal the ordinance reportedly cited the view of the city's attorney, who said the measure might violate Title IX provisions of the Civil Rights Act. Separately Wednesday, the U.S. Justice Department issued a warning to North Carolina that its similar law does violate the federal civil rights law.

The rescinded ordinance was unanimously passed last week after Target, which has a store in an Oxford shopping center, reiterated its policy that transgender employees and shoppers could use the bathroom that lined up with their gender identity.

The retailer made its move after states including Mississippi and North Carolina passed laws to protect those who cite religious beliefs for refusing to serve or employ gay or transgender people. Some of the measures limit access to public restrooms and require transgender people use those that correspond to the gender listed on their birth certificate.

Target's position prompted a boycott campaign by the American Family Association (AFA), a group identified as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), a nonprofit advocacy group.

"The Oxford City Council did the right thing by recalling its discriminatory ordinance," said Chinyere Ezie, staff attorney with the SPLC, said in an email. "We are pleased the council members came to the conclusion that nobody should be criminalized simply for using the restroom."