AUGUSTA, Maine — Gov. Paul LePage has pledged his name in support of a lawsuit by 11 states against guidance from President Barack Obama’s administration that transgender students must be allowed to use the bathroom of their choice.

LePage spokesman Peter Steele said Wednesday afternoon that Maine is not a plaintiff in the suit but that the governor has signed on to it “pro se,” which means on his own personal behalf.

“The Obama administration continues to be reckless with its overreach of federal mandates on states,” wrote Steele in response to questions from the Bangor Daily News. “Recently, the president unilaterally forced overtime rules on the states, which will have a devastating effect on our economy. The Obama administration is also threatening to use its authority to designate a national monument in the Katahdin region. The president is dictating by fiat, and governors are pushing back.”

Reuters reported that the lawsuit was filed in federal court in Wichita Falls, Texas, and accused the Obama administration of trying to turn workplaces into “laboratories for a massive social experiment.”

LePage’s involvement in the suit against Obama comes about six months after he interjected himself into a federal case in Virginia over a transgender boy’s challenge of his school’s bathroom-use policy, and two years after the Maine supreme court ruled in favor of a transgender girl’s rights in Orono.

In 2014, the Maine Supreme Judicial Court ruled in favor of Nicole Maines in a lawsuit against the Orono school district, guaranteeing transgender students the right to use school bathrooms corresponding to the gender with which they identify.

Maine Attorney General Janet Mills said she was not consulted about the case and without that consultation, Maine cannot be a plaintiff in the case and LePage cannot join it in any official capacity.

“Maine law required 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, and our approval was not obtained in this case,” said Tim Feeley, a spokesman for Mills. “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.”

Matthew Moonen, director of EqualityMaine, an LGBT advocacy group, said he was disappointed but not surprised by LePage’s move.

“This is over the Obama administration’s directive to schools that they need to treat students according to their gender identity,” said Moonen. “This is the second lawsuit in a row that the governor has joined attacking the rights of transgender kids. We think it’s a shame that this is how the governor is choosing to spend his summer. We expect the suit to fail.”


Christopher Cousins

Christopher Cousins has worked as a journalist in Maine for more than 15 years and covered state government for numerous media organizations before joining the Bangor Daily News in 2009.