Maine Gov. Paul LePage Blocks Rules Protecting Trans Students
The Republican governor says a 2014 ruling in favor of a trans student's equal access requires the legislature to take action, not his administration.
Maine’s Republican governor has blocked the state’s Department of Education and Human Rights Commission from issuing legally binding rules that would guarantee transgender students equal access, reports the Associated Press. Instead, schools statewide will be encouraged to abide by “guidelines” about how to treat transgender students, issued by the Human Rights Commission last month, but will not face penalties for failing to comply with these suggestions.
The formal rules were drafted by the Maine Human Rights Commission and the Department of Education in response to a 2014 ruling from Maine’s high court in the case of Nicole Maines, a transgender student who was denied access to the girls’ bathroom (after years of using that facility without incident) at her elementary school. With the support of the state’s Human Rights Commission, the rules would have established a legal standard for trans students statewide, affirming that they have the right to access the gender-segregated facilities (like bathrooms and locker rooms) and sports teams that correspond with their gender.
A spokeswoman for Gov. Paul LePage told the AP the governor has read the ruling, and believes that it requires the state legislature to take action on the issue, not the executive branch. But advocates of equal access for trans students say the governor is misinterpreting that landmark ruling, which also saw Maines awarded a $75,000 settlement for the violation of her rights by school officials.