A public hearing on a plan in Maine that essentially would banish biology-based restrooms in public schools, requiring all facilities to allow students access to the accommodations with which they identify, has been delayed again, and opponents of the plan are concerned its advance is being shoved underground.
Members of the Maine Human Rights Commission recently voted 4-1 to hold a public hearing on guidelines proposed for schools before moving forward.
But even the attorney for the state commission said requiring all students to use “biology-based” restrooms and locker rooms in the state’s schools is illegal and cannot be allowed to continue.
“Schools cannot discriminate against sexual identity or gender identification. Schools therefore cannot segregate students based on sexual orientation and identity,” commission legal counsel John Gause.
When the vote to hold a public hearing on the dispute was announced, program opponents expressed concern it was no more than a smokescreen, and now that concern is growing.
“The commission is clearly temporizing on a matter of vital importance to the families of Maine,” said a statement today from a new organization called the American Family Association of Maine.
“No doubt the commission hopes that the public outcry against the guidelines will diminish as times goes on. They are mistaken. The public is aware that deception, concealment, and delay are needed only for laws which harm the common good,” the organization said.
“The public is also aware that the commission’s delay in granting the public the right to participate runs counter to the spirit of our democratic institutions.”
Spokesman Michael Heath told WND that there’s been no commitment for a hearing date, although several delays already have been announced.
“The commission can make amends for its abuse of the public trust by granting a hearing promptly and promising to hear in good faith the concerns of the public regarding guidelines which the vast majority of the public rightly view as ill-advised and dangerous,” the AFA of Maine statement said.
The tenative plan is to hold the hearing in May.
“The delay is further evidence that the Maine Human Rights Commission is not willing to deal openly and fairly with the public on the issue,” the organization said.
The group obtained information under the Maine Freedom of Access Act that the commission a year ago planned in conjunction with the Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders to suggest the measure to commissioners then allow some time “before moving in that direction.”
An e-mail from Gause to Mary Bonauto of GLAD said, “We do plan to promulgate, together with the Department of Education, further regulations in education (perhaps addressing more than just sexual orientation) but we want to give the guidance some time before doing that. Of course, because that process is going to take some time when we do start it, it is never too early to be thinking about what the regulations will include. We would welcome your thoughts and suggestions on that at any time.”
Then just a few weeks ago, the commission began to move on the rule changes despite the warning from the Maine School Management Association that the change “extends [state] law … far beyond its text, and in a manner that fundamentally conflicts with long-standing policies and practices.”
The association suggested such changes are part of the responsibilities of the state legislature.
“At the very least, such interpretations of the act should undergo a formal rule-making process as provided in the Administrative Procedures Act, which requires public notice and comment. In this regard, we are concerned that the process to develop this guidance has been closed to the public,” the school group protested.
“As matters now stand, even before the guidelines have been issued, a school may be brought before the commission, found guilty of discrimination. Then sued for violating the commissions’ police on transgendered students,” the AFA of Maine said.
Steve Martin, host of the Aroostock Watchmen Radio Program, earlier told WND the people of Maine may need to resolve the dispute.
“Hopefully the people will hear what the commissioners are saying and rise up and vote out the officials who put these unelected people into their positions. I’m hopeful that the people will put people back in the Maine state legislature who support decency and common sense,” Martin said after a recent commission meeting on the dispute.
Paul Madore of the Maine Grassroots Coalition said the public meeting and any future public hearings are to make the people think they’re being heard.
“We have to keep in mind that the proposed guidelines were mostly drafted by
radical homosexual organizations. The commission sought the input of these radical homosexual groups on purpose and there was no impartial and objective source of information,” Madore said.
The current push started over the commission decision last year that found a school in Orono, Asa Adams School, discriminated against a boy by denying him access to the girls’ restroom.
The ripples from the ruling now are being felt. According to documents obtained in the state, the University of Maine already is expressing alarm.
A letter from the university office of equal opportunity noted, “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. …”
The letter pointed out “unintended consequences,” such as “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.”
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 the first to extend the rules to private and sectarian schools.
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.