Wednesday March 3, 2010

Maine Human Rights Commission Debates ‘Biology-based Bathrooms’

By Peter J. Smith

Updated 6:08 EST 3.3.2010

AUGUSTA, Maine, March 3, 2010 ( – The Maine Human Rights Commission is debating whether the state’s 2005 Human Rights Act makes a “biology-based” separation of bathrooms – that is, different bathrooms for boys and girls – illegal in schools. The division of sports teams and dress codes along biologically sexual lines were also under scrutiny.

“Schools cannot discriminate against sexual identity or gender identification. Schools therefore cannot segregate students based on sexual orientation and identity,” argued legal counsel John Gause at Monday’s commission meeting at Senator Inn in Augusta.

Since 2005, Maine’s HRA has made it illegal to discriminate based on “sexual orientation” or “gender identity.”

For that reason, Gause argued, the Commission should immediately adopt draft guidelines allowing students identifying with the opposite of their biological gender to avail themselves of the corresponding bathroom, sports team, or dress code.

One proposed guideline states: “Transgender students must be allowed access to bathrooms that correspond with their gender identity or expression or, if they prefer, to existing single stall bathrooms.”

It continues: “With respect to locker rooms and shower facilities that involve undressing in front of others, transgender students must be provided with accommodations that meet their needs and that take into account the legitimate privacy concerns of all student involved.”

With sports teams, the proposed guidelines also permit transgender students to play on the team of the sex they identify with: i.e., biological males identifying themselves as female would be permitted to play on a girls team, and vice versa.

The guidelines were developed at a December 2009 meeting in which homosexualist groups received invitations and sent representatives, while pro-family advocates were kept unaware and uninvolved in the process.

Commissioner Kenneth Fredette argued against adopting the guidelines.

“What I have trouble with is, what is the effect on my daughter when a 15-year-old boy comes into that bathroom who thinks he’s a girl and maybe is in the process of going through the transgender change?” Fredette asked. “What is the effect on my daughter?”

Fredette also said that Maine’s Constitution gave them no authority to mandate them for schools.

“We don’t have to issue guidance. That’s the legislature’s authority,” he said.

Commission Chairman Paul Vestal expressed hesitation to promulgate guidelines at a time when the Commission’s ruling, which held the Asa Adams Elementary School discriminated against an 11 year-old boy who wished to use a girls’ restroom, was being disputed in Penobscot Superior Court.

However, the presence of 50 Maine citizens at the Commission’s meeting – reportedly visibly upset at being forbidden from commenting – convinced the Commission to hold an open hearing on the guidelines for public input.

The commission voted 4 – 1 to defer taking action on the guidelines in favor of the public hearing, which is expected to be scheduled and publicized sometime in April.