The Maine Supreme Judicial Court on
Thursday ruled that denying a transgender girl the use of the girls
bathroom at her school violated her rights under Maine's Human Rights
Act, which prohibits discrimination based on gender identity.
In a 5-1 decision, the justices
reversed a lower court's ruling that sided with Orono school
district, now called Riverside RSU 26.
“Our opinion must not be read to
require schools to permit students casual access to any bathroom of
their choice,” writing for the majority, Justice
Warren Silver said. “Decisions about how to address students'
legitimate gender identity issues are not to be taken lightly.
Where, as here, it has been clearly established that a student's
psychological well-being and educational success depend upon being
permitted to use the communal bathroom consistent with her gender
identity, denying access to the appropriate bathroom constitutes
sexual orientation discrimination in violation of the [Maine Human
Parents of the girl, Nicole Maines, now
15, filed their lawsuit in 2007 after their daughter was told she
could no longer use the girls bathroom at the Asa Adams Elementary
School in Orono and was instructed to use a staff bathroom instead.
Administrators acted after the grandfather of a male student
Gay & Lesbian Advocate &
Defenders (GLAD), the Boston-based legal group devoted to LGBT cases,
represented the Maines family.
“This is a momentous decision that
marks a huge breakthrough for transgender young people,” said
Jennifer Levi, director of GLAD's Transgender Rights Project, who
argued the case. “Schools have a responsibility to create a
learning environment that meets and balances the needs of all kids
and allows every student to succeed. For transgender students this
includes access to all school facilities, programs and
extracurricular activities in a way that is consistent with their
After oral arguments in June, Nicole
Maines told reporters: “I wouldn't wish my experience on
another trans person. … I am happy the court was able to hear my
Wayne Maines, Nicole's father, on Thursday said
that he was happy to “close this very difficult chapter in our
“As parents all we've ever wanted is
for Nicole and her brother Jonas to get a good education and to be
treated just like their classmates, and that didn't happen for
Nicole,” Mr. Maines said. “We are very happy knowing that
because of this ruling, no other transgender child in Maine will have
to endure what Nicole experienced.”