Confusion, Fear in Maine Over Trump’s Transgender Action

Transgender activists say some of Governor Paul LePage's actions have given them reason to be concerned, because they could create confusion

President Trump's recent rollback on federal guidance for transgender students in school bathrooms has created some confusion, and fear, in Maine. 

"I've spoken to a number of trans students, and there is a lot of fear about what this means," said Quinn Gormley, president of the Maine Trans Net. 

The Trump administration's move leaves it up to states and schools to make policies for transgender students, deciding between using the bathroom that aligns with their gender identity, or the gender they were born with. 

It's an issue the Maine Supreme Court has already tackled. 

IIn 2007, Nicole Maines sued her school in Orono, Maine, to use the bathroom of her gender identity, and in 2014, the Maine Supreme Court ruled in her favor

That ruling upheld changes to the Maine Human Rights Act.

Several superintendents in the state said the 2014 case settled the bathroom issue for their schools, and the Trump administration's moves won't impact Maine students. 

But transgender activists say some of Gov. Paul LePage's actions have given them reason to be concerned, because they could create confusion. 

In the spring, Gov. LePage signed his name on a lawsuit to void Obama's directive on bathrooms in schools. Last February, the governor refused to allow the Maine Human Rights Commission to create rules for Maine schools for transgender students. 

While the MHRC drafted guidelines to help public schools comply with the 2014 Maine Supreme Court case, without the governor's approval, they are suggestions for schools rather than enforceable rules. 

Gormley worries public schools are getting mixed messages at both the federal and state level. 

"I think it's going to give a lot of schools who don't want to follow the law – it's going to make them feel like they have permission not to," Gormley said. 

Amy Sneirson, executive director of the Maine Human Rights Commission, stressed that Maine law is clear. 

"The people of Maine adopted protections for LGBTQ rights over 10 years ago," she said. "The Maine Human Rights Act applies to ensure their civil rights in schools no matter what the federal government does regarding transgender rights."

A spokesperson for Gov. LePage did not respond to requests for comment Thursday.

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