Maine high court rules school violated transgender student's rights

[JURIST] The Maine Supreme Court [official website] ruled [text, PDF] on Thursday that a school violated Maine's Human Rights Act [text; GLAAD backgrounder] when it refused to allow a transgender fifth-grader, Nicole Maines, to use the girls' bathroom. Maines had been using the girls' bathroom throughout elementary school until the family of another student complained amid acts of bullying. At this point, the school directed Maines to use a staff bathroom. Maines' family brought this action, under the anonymous name "Susan Doe", alleging this was discrimination. The Maine Supreme Court agreed:

The sole purpose of the public-accommodations and educational-opportunities provisions of the MHRA is to ensure equal enjoyment of and access to educational opportunities and public accommodations and facilities. The public-accommodations and educational-opportunities provisions were amended in 2005 to prohibit discrimination against transgender students in schools... [The school's] later decision to ban Susan from the girls' bathroom, based not on a determination that there had been some change in Susan's status but on others' complaints about the school's well-considered decision, constituted discrimination based on Susan's sexual orientation.
Supporters of Maines praised the decision as a crucial ruling for the state's treatment of LGBT individuals, while opponents continue to argue that a biological determination of sex is all that should be considered in bathroom choice.

Rights for transgender individuals remains a contentious issue throughout the world. California's transgender law [JURIST report] has been criticized [JURIST op-ed] recently. In November opponents called for its repeal [JURIST report]. That same month the US Senate approved [JURIST report] the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) which prohibits employers from discriminating on the basis of gender identity or sexual orientation. In October the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) [official website] ruled [JURIST report] in favor of a transgender woman who endured physical and verbal harassment during her employment as a federal contractor in Maryland. The US Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee (HELP) [official website] in July approved a version [JURIST report] of ENDA. In May a number of human rights groups urged Cameroon to drop charges [JURIST report] against two transgender youths who were arrested for engaging in homosexual conduct. Earlier that month Hong Kong's Court of Final Appeal ruled [JURIST report] that a law prohibiting a transgender woman from marrying her boyfriend was invalid under the Chinese constitution. In March Canadian lawmakers approved a bill [JURIST report] that would outlaw discrimination against transgender individuals.

 

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