June 13, 2013

Maine high court hears appeal of transgender teen

By Scott Dolan sdolan@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

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Jonas Maines, left, and his transgender twin sister, Nicole Maines, appear Wednesday outside court in Bangor. Nicole, who was born male but has always considered herself a girl, says the Orono school district discriminated by banning her from the girls' bathroom.

The Associated Press / Robert F. Bukaty

The Supreme Judicial Court made no immediate decision on the appeal, though individual judges asked many questions.

"The school appears to have done a very good job in uncharted territory," Chief Justice Leigh Saufley said. "Why did Susan have to be excluded from the communal girls room where she felt her community existed? If the triggering event was not the young man forcing his way into the girls room ... what was the triggering event?"

Another justice asked lawyers on both sides of the issue whether the case was "moot," because Nicole no longer attends school in Orono. Wayne Maines confirmed in a statement outside the courthouse that Nicole and her twin brother, Jonas, now attend high school in southern Maine but declined to specify which school.

"It's been a long road. I just want my daughter and my son to have the same opportunities as their friends at school," Wayne Maines said.

Levi, who in addition to representing the Maines is also the director of the Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders transgender rights project, said she did not know on which of many issues raised the judges would focus their attention. She added that she felt it was a fair hearing.

Levi argued that the Legislature amended the Maine Human Rights Act in 2005 to include language that states that a person cannot be denied public accommodations, such as a public bathroom, based on "sexual orientation."

"This is a tremendously important issue. There are vulnerable children throughout the state of Maine who need these protections, which is the reason why they added these protections in 2005," Levi said. Another attorney for the school district, Melissa Hewey, said the law is clear that schools are required to segregate bathrooms by sex. She said that anything further requires a policy decision that is best left to the Legislature, not the courts.

"These are uncharted waters," Hewey said. "I think a lot of schools in the state of Maine and around the country are starting to struggle with transgender issues."

Nicole began to consider herself a girl at a very young age, according to court papers filed by her lawyers.


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