Maine Gov. Paul LePage has joined officials from 10 other states in suing the Obama administration over a new directive that says public schools should let transgender students use bathrooms or locker rooms that match their gender identity.

The lawsuit includes Alabama, Arizona, Georgia, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, West Virginia and Wisconsin – all led by Republican governors, and most of them conservative southern states where social issues are often front and center.

LePage stands alone in signing on to the suit in his personal capacity, not as a representative of the state of Maine, where the Maine Supreme Judicial Court ruled in 2014 that schools cannot discriminate against transgender students.

The governor’s spokeswoman, Adrienne Bennett, said the action reflects LePage’s belief that “the Obama administration is continuously reckless with its overreach on states.”

“Recently, we have seen the president force overtime rules, which will have a devastating effect on our economy that has been rebounding for the past five years,” she said in an email. “And we have seen the Obama administration threaten its use of unilateral authority regarding the designation of national monuments – an issue we currently are dealing with in our Katahdin region. The president is dictating by fiat and governors are pushing back.”

Timothy Feeley, a spokesman for Maine Attorney General Janet Mills, said Maine law requires approval of the attorney general for anyone other than the attorney general to file an entry of appearance or represent the state in any legal matter.


“Our approval was not obtained in this case,” he said. “The governor apparently signed on in his personal capacity only. As a matter of law, the state of Maine is not a party to this lawsuit.”

This month, the Justice Department issued a federal directive to the nation’s schools to let transgender students use the bathrooms and locker rooms that match their gender identity. Although it doesn’t impose new legal requirements, the directive clarifies expectations for how schools should comply with Title IX, which prohibits discrimination by any schools or activities that receive federal funding.

“There is no room in our schools for discrimination of any kind, including discrimination against transgender students on the basis of their sex,” U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch said in a written statement this month.

The lawsuit filed this week asks a judge to declare the directive unlawful.


According to The Associated Press, Texas was a likely candidate to rush to the courthouse first. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott sued the Obama administration more than two dozen times when he was attorney general, a pace that his successor, Republican Ken Paxton, has kept up since taking office last year.


Texas’ lieutenant governor has previously said the state is willing to forfeit $10 billion in federal education money rather than comply with the directive.

The transgender bathroom debate has intensified since March, when the state of North Carolina passed a law that requires transgender people to use public bathrooms, showers and changing rooms that match the sex on their birth certificate.

Supporters of that law say it’s needed to protect women and children from sexual predators, although the Justice Department and others argue that the threat is practically nonexistent and the law is discriminatory.

The Obama administration has sued, saying the law violates the Civil Rights Act. Several businesses have boycotted the state of North Carolina, and musicians such as Bruce Springsteen have canceled concerts there in protest.

LePage’s action drew swift condemnation from many Wednesday and praise from others.

Matt Moonen, executive director of EqualityMaine, an LGBT advocacy group, said he was discouraged but not surprised.


“This is the second lawsuit in a row that the governor has joined trying to eliminate protections for transgender children,” Moonen said. He was referring to another case in December when the governor joined other Republican officials in signing a court brief in Virginia seeking to block a transgender boy’s challenge of his school’s bathroom policy.

“It’s unfortunate that the governor is spending his time attacking children,” Moonen said.


Alison Beyea, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Maine, said the governor is ignoring the will of Maine people.

“Gov. LePage is trying to legalize discrimination and roll back equality that has been in place for years,” she said in a written statement. “This is yet another example of the governor acting like he is above the law and like the separation of powers doesn’t apply to him. We should all be concerned that the governor is spending his time interfering in issues that don’t involve our state.”

Senate Democratic leader Justin Alfond of Portland also had strong words.


“The governor and I have worked together on a lot of issues, and I’m proud of our record of finding common ground where we could. But let me be the first to say that in joining this lawsuit, the governor does not represent me, nor does he represent the people of Maine who so overwhelmingly support equality and freedom from discrimination,” Alfond said. “When it comes to the slow, steady march toward equality, you can count on Gov. Paul LePage to be on the wrong side of history.”

But Michael Heath, who served as director of the Christian Civic League of Maine for 15 years before retiring in 2009, said LePage represents the view of thousands of Mainers.

“Shame on the attorney general. I couldn’t be more thrilled with the governor’s decision to do this,” Heath said. “It’s courageous and the right thing to do.”

Heath, who is now president of Helping Hands Ministries of Augusta, said he has begun working on a campaign focused on repealing the same-sex marriage law passed by Maine voters in 2012. Toward that end, Heath is in the process of forming a political action committee called Equal Rights, Not Special Rights that will kick off a petition gathering campaign in June.


The issue of transgender bathroom use first arose in Maine in 2007, when Nicole Maines, a transgender girl in fifth grade at Asa Adams Elementary School in Orono, was instructed to use a staff bathroom after a grandparent of another student, a boy, complained that Maines was allowed to use the girls’ bathroom. Maines was born a biological male but later testified that she had always identified as female.


The case went all the way to the Maine Supreme Judicial Court, which ruled in Maines’ favor in December 2014.

Maines, now a student at the University of Maine, has become an advocate for transgender youth. She was speaking about her journey Wednesday evening at the Museum of Science in Boston and could not be reached for comment.

But her father, Wayne Maines of Portland, said Wednesday that he was extremely disappointed by the governor’s actions. Maines was in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, where he has been teaching a leadership seminar to Maine law enforcement officers.

He was visiting Little Round Top, where Maine General Joshua Chamberlain successfully defended the Union’s left flank against a Confederate assault during the battle of Gettysburg in the Civil War, when he heard that LePage was involved in a suit against the Obama administration.

“It kind of hit me pretty hard when I found out,” Maines said. “I was more than a little disappointed. He’s the governor, but I’m not sure he is the voice of Maine people.”

Maines said the Supreme Judicial Court has already ruled that his daughter was discriminated against when she was told she could not use the girls’ bathroom.


“There are a lot of leaders in Maine and I am proud of most of them,” Maines said. “We won in the Legislature and we won in the courts. It’s unfortunate that we have a few people who can’t go along with that.”

Moonen, of EqualityMaine, said that even if the lawsuit filed this week is successful – which he doesn’t think it will be – he believes nothing would change in Maine.

Feeley, the attorney general’s spokesman, agreed.

“The governor’s position in this particular matter, moreover, appears to be inconsistent with the law of Maine as enunciated by the Maine Supreme Court recently,” he said.

In February, LePage stopped his Department of Education from issuing rules to protect transgender students, saying the Legislature needs to pass a law first. Democrats, however, said the governor is misinterpreting the court’s decision in the Maines case.

Staff Writer Dennis Hoey and The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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