Often behind the scenes, Gov. Paul LePage has worked to limit the rights of LGBT Americans. Maine has strong laws protecting LGBT people from discrimination and harassment. Many states do not.
LePage is among 16 state officials asking the U.S. Supreme Court to rule that the Civil Rights Act does not protect lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender employees from workplace discrimination. Under their arguments, LGBT workers can be fired because of their gender identity.
It is important to note that LePage joined the lawsuit on his own and that his views do not represent the state’s views. Maine law bans workplace discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation.
LePage and the others who signed the brief, 13 Republican attorneys general and two Republican governors, argue that federal law does not offer similar protections. They are asking the Supreme Court to overturn a lower court ruling, which found that a Michigan funeral home violated federal law when it fired a transgender worker after she told them she was transitioning to a woman.
Federal courts have split on whether LGBT individuals are protected from workplace discrimination under the Civil Rights Act. The Trump administration is also conflicted, with the Justice Department arguing there are not workplace protections for LGBT Americans and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission arguing that a ban on such discrimination does in fact exist.
A Supreme Court decision would settle the matter.
LePage has taken to social media to argue that signing onto the lawsuit was important because it “challenges the ability of an activist judge to re-define a federal law.”
In the brief, LePage and the others argue that the Civil Rights Act use of the word “sex” does not mean “gender identity.” They don’t address why allowing discrimination based on gender identity — specifically against transgender individuals — should be allowed or how it would be beneficial.
As a result, this is just another attempt to legalize discrimination against LGBT Americans, which is abhorrent.
This is not the first time LePage has personally joined lawsuits to restrict the rights of LGBT people.
Previously, LePage joined a lawsuit seeking to bar a transgender student in Virginia from being able to use the bathroom that corresponded to his identity. He also joined a suit that sought to stop Obama administration rules that requires schools to allow transgender students to use facilities that match their gender identity.
The governor’s views are counter to Maine’s tradition of acceptance. In 2005, voters rejected an effort to remove “sexual orientation” from the Maine Human Rights Act. Maine was the first state where voters approved same-sex marriage in 2012.
LePage’s views are also counter to state law. Maine lawmakers in 2011 rejected a bill, sponsored by now-House Minority Leader Ken Fredette, to change Maine’s Human Rights Act to restrict public bathroom and shower use. It would have required transgender people to use the facilities matching their biological gender.
There has been much more important work that demanded LePage’s attention during his nearly eight years as governor than joining a mean-spirited campaign to restrict the rights of LGBT Americans.
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