Dr. Jillian T. Weiss

Maine Rejects Anti-Trans Bill

Filed By Dr. Jillian T. Weiss | June 09, 2011 11:00 AM | comments

Filed in: Politics, Transgender & Intersex
Tags: bathroom bill, bathrooms, LD1046, Maine, Orono

BathroomBill.jpgAccording to the Sun-Journal, the Maine Legislature rejected a bill to prevent transgender individuals from filing complaints against schools and public institutions for restricting access to bathrooms and locker rooms.

It was thumbs down in the House, 61-81, in a late Tuesday night vote that saw 15 Republicans break with the Democratic minority. On Wednesday, the Senate voted it down 11-23.

The bill had been prompted by a highly publicized case involving an Orono elementary school student.

The bill originally included a provision making it so transgender individuals could not sue private establishments, such as restaurants, for restricting access to public restrooms over privacy concerns.

That provision, stricken before Tuesday's floor debate, was based on a case involving Lewiston's Brianna Freeman, a transgender woman who was denied access to a restroom at a Denny's restaurant in Auburn, Maine.

Kenneth Fredette, the Republican sponsor of the bill, was all sour grapes:

I have the opinion that nobody in America has absolute rights on everything. We do not have an absolute right to free speech. We do not have an absolute right to carry a weapon. You can't do everything you want to do. And the process that has been working so far gives absolute rights to the transgenders and it gives no rights to the non-transgenders.

I suppose that all civil rights protections give "absolute power" to the disenfranchised in Mr. Fredette's view, and he doesn't want to give up any of his privileges to make the world a fairer place.

I think the story of this legislation demonstrates a number of interesting propositions. I find it particularly interesting that Maine, a state with a Republican Governor, a Republican statehouse and Republican U.S. Senators, would recognize that this bill was wrong. It shows that Democrats aren't the only ones who understand that discrimination is wrong.

It also shows that the backlash against extension of rights, a nearly universal phenomenon, isn't always successful.

Lastly, it shows that people are beginning to have some empathy for trans people. We aren't the monsters that we used to be in the mind of the public. This may spell the beginning of the end of the bathroom boogie man dodge that right-wing elements have used so successfully in the past.

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Yay! :) Little steps, it seems, are coming together in a variety of places.

From the newspaper coverage:

"Fredette said Tuesday that the legislation was designed to address privacy concerns of those uncomfortable with sharing a restroom with an individual born of the opposite sex."

A decade ago, the burden of using some other "reasonable accommodation" would probably have been foisted off on the trans individual. In some places, that still will be the case.

But Maine seems to be a civilized enough place to realize that the burden of prejudice should be borne by the one who has the prejudices.

If you don't want to share a public drinking fountain with persons of a different race, you can buy your own nicely sealed bottle of Poland Spring (comin' to ya straight from Maine!) water.

If you believe that trans persons are members of the opriginally-assigned sex, regardless of anything they do, despite the masses of scientific evidence that we are different, then you are the one who can find the single-seater restroom to use, rathter than making the trans individual use a distant special restroom, or be forced to use the wrong bathroom just to suit your prejudice.

So, Maine's legislature shows that the majority of elected officials of that state are quite a bit more civilized than their counterparts in, say, Tennessee, or even in the New York State Senate.

A couple of interesting tidbits... Mr. Freddette admitted at the Judiciary committee hearing that this bill was his personal idea and not one brought up by any concerns from his constituents.

It was still touch and go there for a while, not knowing how the vote would turn out, but there were only a handful of people who showed up in support of this bill at the committee hearing and hours of moving testimony from the crowd that showed up in opposition. The bill's supporters seemed to consist only of the few who want all of our state's glbt protections gone and those with unfounded fears due to lack of exposure. Common sense ruled the day.

At some point Maine had to get one thing right. Thank goodness that the legislators seem to have their senses about themselves.