A proposal by the Maine Human Rights Commission to establish a broad right for “transgender” boys to use girls restrooms in all Maine schools will be the subject of a public hearing scheduled by the commission March 1.
The plan, if given ultimate approval by the commission, will establish mandatory transgender restroom access rules for all Maine schools. The proposal was prompted by a decision last year that found a school in Orono, Asa Adams School, discriminated against a boy by denying him access to the girls’ restroom.
Christian Civic League of Maine Administrator Mike Hein said it’s worrying because he believes the draft of the proposed regulations was developed in a December closed-door session.
“The Maine Human Rights Commission had a secret, closed-door session in December and the public wasn’t notified. But Mary Bonauto (director of the Gay and Lesbian Activist and Defenders) was invited to the meeting and she was allowed to present a legal brief at that meeting,” Hein said.
The commission said, in documents obtained through a Freedom of Access Act request by Maine’s Christian Action League, the June determination that a school discriminated against a boy by not allowing him access to the girls’ restroom was correct.
“The commission has found reasonable grounds to believe that unlawful discrimination occurred in a complaint alleging that an elementary school had an obligation to allow a transgender student access to common bathrooms consistent with that student’s gender identity, and the commission is a party to a court complaint in that case,” the commission concluded.
Another document obtained in the same request details the proposal: “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.”
Bonauto has filed a brief with the commission that says the commission is acting properly in trying to deal with students’ “identity” issues.
“Practically speaking, making a transgender student with a female gender identity use the boys’ restroom would be stigmatizing and have a serious, negative, emotional consequence for the student as well. It would be no less stigmatizing for that student to have to use the boys’ room than it would be for any non-transgender girl to be singled out and made to use the boys’ room,” she claims.
Bonauto suggests restroom usage should not be based on biology.
“Applying these rules, it is clear, for example, that an anatomy or biology-based rule for bathroom usage cannot be used to bar transgender students from using a facility consistent with their gender identity,” Bonauto said.
“Such a rule would fail to give effect to the non-discrimination mandate for gender identity, a result at odds with the plain meaning of the ‘gender identity’ portion of the statute,” she said.
“In addition, such a rule is at odds with the Human Rights Act as a whole, since the act seeks to remove obstacles to education, not to impose them. Finally, such a construction would render ‘gender identity or expression’ meaningless surplus usage with no intended consequences for how schools deal with transgender students,” Bonauto said.
On the issue of sports, Bonauto supports rules that require the schools to open doors based on the students’ sense of identity.
“GLAD supports a rule that allows students the opportunity to play sports consistent with their gender identity, with no exceptions. The guidance provides this rule ‘in most cases’ and also states that, ‘In very rare cases, legitimate questions about fairness in competitive interscholastic sports may need to be resolved on a case-by-case basis,” Bonauto said.
Bonauto did not respond to a request for comment.
But Hein said the proposals will have a derogatory impact on Maine’s schools.
“What it comes down to is that we are completely getting rid of the concept of
gender. Gender is being stricken in all forms in Maine if this proposed guideline is
adopted as is,” he said.
Listen to an interview about Maine’s plan:
Hein says the issue of sports competition will be adversely impacted as well.
“It completely turns on its head what we consider boys basketball, girls basketball. Gender normative sports will be completely erased under these guidelines. In addition, if the proposed guidelines are adopted, you will have biological boys in the middle school, high school or college setting showering with girls,” Hein said.
The difficulties in sports are also a point of concern with the University of Maine.
In a letter obtained through the FOAA request, University of Maine Office of Equal Opportunity Director Karen Kemble said the proposal raises some important questions.
“As the current language acknowledges, there will likely be cases in which allowing a transgender student to participate in gender-segregated sports in accordance with the gender identity or expression will raise legitimate concerns about fairness in competitive interscholastic sports. Although such requests from transgender students may be very rare, among those, fairness of play may become an issue,” Kemble said.
The letter obtained in the FOAA request continues.
“The university also wanted to take the opportunity to point out some scenarios that could cause unintended consequences. For example, based on information provided by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) on the issue, a transgendered individual’s participation on a gender-segregated team could result in the NCAA’s treating that team as a mixed team. This would have a number of serious consequences including potentially impacting the institution’s compliance with Title IX,” Kemble said.
Hein said the proposed regulations also will have an impact on private and Christian schools.
“Any school in Maine whose authority to grant diplomas is authorized by the state will have to follow these guidelines. That includes Christian and private schools,” Hein said.
If the state adopts the proposed regulations, private schools may not have many alternatives.
“What has to occur for Christian schools, religious schools and parochial schools, in Maine under these guidelines is that civil disobedience must occur. This situation really rises to the level of Christian schools, schools that confess morality and decency will have to resist the rules and regulations of the state,” Hein said.
Currently, Colorado, Iowa, Washington state, Washington, D.C., and San Francisco have rules, policies or laws dealing with transgender restroom accommodations. The Maine rules would make Maine the first state in the U.S. to adopt the policies for elementary and secondary school students and may make Maine the first to extend the rules to private and sectarian schools.
WND has reported on the Christian Civic League of Maine’s call for the public to contact state legislators and oppose imposition of the regulations.
This is not the first time the argument has arisen. WND previously reported when the city council of Tampa, Fla., voted unanimously to include “gender identity and expression” as a protected class under the city’s human rights ordinance, leading some to fear the council has opened the city’s public bathroom doors to sexual predators masquerading as protected transsexuals.
A statement from the American Family Association explained, “Tampa Police arrested Robert Johnson in February 2008 for hanging out in the locker room–restroom area at Lifestyle Fitness and watching women in an undressed state. The City of Tampa’s ‘gender identity’ ordinance could provide a legal defense to future cases like this if the accused claims that his gender is female.”
WND also reported on a similar plan adopted by fiat in Montgomery County, Md., which opponents said would open up women’s locker rooms to men who say they are women.
The issue also has come up in Colorado, where Democrat Gov. Bill Ritter signed into law a plan that effectively strikes gender-specific restrooms in the state.
And city officials in Kalamazoo, Mich., only weeks after adopting a “perceived gender” bias plan, abandoned it in the face of massive public opposition.
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