ORONO, Maine — Wayne Maines never imagined standing before a meeting of the American Civil Liberties Union, let alone accepting an award from the Maine branch of the organization.
Born a Republican, Maines also never imagined he’d be roaming the halls of the State House with his daughter, Nicole, urging lawmakers to vote against a bill that would limit her access to a women’s bathroom because Nicole was born a boy.
The Maines family, Wayne, his wife, Kelly, and their 14-year-old children, Nicole and Jonas, were honored Thursday for their efforts toward ending discrimination against transgender Mainers.
“Our family has remained strong but silent for a long time,” Waynes Maines said in accepting the award on behalf of the family. “Our circle has been very small. Receiving this award provides an opportunity to thank all of you for your advocacy, your support and your friendship. It provides an opportunity for our inner circle to grow. This larger inner circle will help us share the hopes and dreams of transgender children with others that might not understand.”
The family, which was profiled in a Sept. 3 article in the Bangor Daily News, became advocates for transgender rights when Nicole, who is transgender, was told by the staff at Asa Adams School in Orono that she could not use the girls bathroom. A lawsuit against the Orono School District filed by the family is pending in Penobscot County Superior Court.
When legislation was introduced in the Maine Legislature that would amend the Maine Human Rights Act to explicitly allow “the operator of a restroom or shower facility” to decide who can use which gender’s bathroom, Wayne Maines testified against the bill at a public hearing this past spring before the Legislature. Nicole walked the halls of the State House with her father talking to legislators.
“It’s not safe to be transgender in Maine. It’s safe to be stealth,” Shenna Bellows, executive director of the ACLU of Maine said in presenting the award. “But the Maines family spoke out.”
Bellows called the family “brave and courageous.”
Jodi Nofsinger, a Portland attorney who is a member of the legal team representing the family in the lawsuit, said that the Maineses are unusual clients.
“You have a greater goal,” she said. “Most people are in court for themselves but the Maines have two goals — to protect their daughter and to educate. The Maines’ real purpose is to make people understand and it is for people like us to take up that burden too.”
Nicole sat in the front row at Wells Commons as the presentation began, flanked by two Orono girls she attended school with at Asa Adams. Family friends, Wayne Maines’ colleagues at the University of Maine and ACLU members attended.
“It feels pretty good,” Nicole said after the presentation, but she was not sure she was always brave or courageous.
“I feel like sometimes bravery requires effort,” she said. “Sometimes, I don’t feel like I’m being courageous. I’m just doing what I need to do.”
In addition to the event Thursday, Wayne Maines and his daughter spoke Saturday at the Spirit of Justice dinner in Boston sponsored by the group Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders. GLAD is representing the Maineses in the lawsuit the family has filed in Penobscot County Superior Court against the Orono School Department alleging that school personnel did not do enough to keep her from being bullied in school.
The family, formerly of Orono, lives in southern Maine, where Nicole and Jonas, who are twins, attend a private school.
The ACLU of Maine award is named for Roger Baldwin, an ardent activist for social justice who helped found the American Civil Liberties Union and served as its director until 1950. Baldwin remained active in the cause of civil rights and civil liberties until his death in 1981 at the age of 97.