AUGUSTA, Maine — Gov. Paul LePage and other conservatives have asked a federal court in Virginia to block a transgender boy’s challenge of his school district’s bathroom-use policy, arguing he is “biologically of the female sex.”
A brief from LePage and other state Republican officials Monday challenges the American Civil Liberties Union’s lawsuit on behalf of Gavin Grimm, who used the boys’ restroom at his Virginia school before its school board adopted a policy in 2014 that effectively requires transgender students to use private bathrooms.
The governor drew criticism from the ACLU and an LGBT-rights group Thursday for wading into a battle over an issue that has been settled in Maine, but his office hasn’t commented on the brief.
In 2014, the Maine Supreme Judicial Court ruled in favor of Nicole Maines in a similar lawsuit against the Orono school district, guaranteeing transgender students the right to use school bathrooms corresponding to the gender with which they identify.
Grimm was born a girl but identifies as a boy and is undergoing hormone therapy. The ACLU sued the district over the policy, saying it violates Title IX, a federal law prohibiting gender discrimination in public education. A federal judge sided with the school board in August, dismissing that claim.
In October, the administration of President Barack Obama, a Democrat, filed a brief in appeals court supporting Grimm, saying the law includes protections for transgender students, according to the Associated Press.
The brief filed by LePage, North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory and the attorneys general of Arizona, Mississippi and West Virginia challenged that interpretation, saying the law only requires Grimm be allowed “to use the same facilities as other biological girls.”
LePage was in Arizona for to speak at a meeting of the American Legislative Exchange Council on Thursday. His spokeswoman, Adrienne Bennett, said in the morning she was aware of LePage’s signature on the legal brief and would try to obtain comment, but she didn’t send anything by the evening.
Although he’s a social conservative, LePage hasn’t been terribly outspoken on LGBT issues as governor. But when he was campaigning for his first term in 2010, he told an Aroostook County radio show he didn’t understand “how people, at least sane people, would want to allow transgender in our primary schools and our high schools,” according to MPBN.
In 2005, Maine voters upheld a law prohibiting discrimination in housing, education and other areas based on sexual orientation and gender identity, and it’s one of 13 states banning discrimination against students on both bases, according to the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network.
Oamshri Amarasingham, a lawyer for the ACLU of Maine, said “we are lucky to live in a state like Maine” and “it’s disappointing that our governor is entering into these fights in other states.”
“The governor should respect the will of Maine voters, not endorse discrimination in other states,” Matthew Moonen, interim executive director of EqualityMaine, an LGBT advocacy group, said in an email.