AUGUSTA, Maine, February 5, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) – The governor of Maine, Paul LePage, has stopped his administration from promulgating new rules that would punish schools that do not allow transgender students to use the restrooms, showers, and other accommodations of the opposite biological sex.
The Maine Human Rights Commission (MHRC) and the Department of Education had drawn up binding regulations mandating the state's schools to allow transgender students to use the facilities and play on the sports teams of their chosen sex.
The January 13 memo signed by MHRC counsel Barbara Archer Hirsch requires that all school officials, and fellow students, call the transgender student by his or her preferred name and pronoun, as well.
State officials said they were responding to a January 2014 ruling from the Maine Supreme Judicial Court in favor of a transgender teenage male who sued to use the girls' restroom. The high profile legal case dragged through the court system for five years, until the court ordered the Orono School District to pay $75,000 to the male, who legally changed his name to Nicole Maines. The teen, who was born Wyatt, has an identical twin brother named Jonas.
At the heart of the case was the Maine Human Rights Act, which the legistlature revised in 2005 to include gender identity as a protected victim class, alongside race and biological sex. State officials presented a new set of administrative rules last October, although the statute in question had not been changed.
But the Republican governor's spokeswoman, Adrienne Bennett, said the ruling requires the legislature, not an unelected bureaucratic board, to bring the law into accordance with the court ruling.
“The judiciary rightly called upon the legislature – not the executive branch – to address ambiguity in the statute and to make the plain language of the statute clear,” Bennett told the Bangor Daily News. “It is my understanding that the governor does not believe it is appropriate for the executive branch to update regulations until the legislature updates the statute, and he communicated that message to the Department of Education.”
Gov. LePage, she said, had “instructed the Department of Education to follow the law.”
The rules have since been presented to school districts as an official guidance, but not legally binding mandates.
“It frankly irks me to see this happening,” said State Rep. Mattie Daughtry, D-Brunswick, and a strong advocate of using the state to further the transgender cause.
“He’s basically holding hostage rules that not only protect our students but give clarity to our schools,” Rep. Daughtry told the Maine Public Broadcasting Network. “The court case said clearly that students need to have access to a variety of safe spaces.”
She believes school districts must not only have legal guidance, but the threat of legal punishment, in order to advance the LGBT movement's political agenda.
“While the student is at school, we believe the school has the obligation to use the gender identity the student prefers,” so it is important for educators “to know explicitly via an enforceable rule what actions we may take” if they fail to comply.
Rep. Daughtry wants the rules to take effect without Gov. LePage's approval, saying she is meeting with officials to “demand that this goes forward.”
State advocates had looked at the new rulemaking process, not only as an opportunity to shape the behavior of young people on a cutting edge social issue, but a chance to gain the attention of a national audience.
Amy Sneirson, executive director of the Maine Human Rights Commission, said, “We knew, given the Maines case and given the fact that there isn’t a lot of information out there to look at, that people would be watching, and that what we put out for proposed rulemaking would be looked at in Maine a lot and in other states, as well.”
That is apparently canceled for now, thanks to the governor.
Gov. Paul LePage, who ran as an outspoken critic of Barack Obama in 2010 and won a surprising re-election four years later, has a dramatically personal story of becoming pro-life after his abusive father beat his mother until she had a miscarriage.
He and North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory filed “friend of the court” briefs with in a federal case the Obama administration is bringing against a rural Virginia school district that refused to allow a teen to use the facilities of the opposite biological sex. That case is still pending.