Denny’s restaurants in Maine have announced they will now implement a trans-friendly restroom policy.
This comes following a legal complaint made by a trans customer who had been denied the right to use the restroom facilities that matched her gender identity. Denny’s defended this on the grounds that she was not biologically female and had not at the time had gender change surgery.
The courts, however, did not agree that this was an acceptable standard when viewed with Maine’s existing anti-discrimination laws.
In a March 23, 2011 settlement agreement, Realty Resources Hospitality, which operates 6 Denny’s restaurants in Maine, agreed that at all of the restaurants it operates, all transgender individuals, including Ms. Freeman, will be given access to the restroom consistent with their stated gender identity.
GLAD filed suit October 20, 2009, on behalf of Brianna Freeman, a transgender woman who was told by the manager of a local Denny’s that she could not use the women’s restroom. Denny’s moved to dismiss the case, arguing that it could apply a so-called biological rule to keep transgender women from using the gender appropriate restroom.
In its May 27, 2010 ruling, Androscoggin Superior Court denied Denny’s motion to dismiss Brianna’s gender identity claim. The Court’s critical, first-of-its-kind ruling affirmed that Maine’s law protecting transgender persons from discrimination includes ensuring appropriate access to restrooms. This was an important first step in guaranteeing that transgender people have full protections under Maine law.
On February 22, 2011 GLAD argued for summary judgment in the case, seeking a final order allowing Brianna — and other transgender Maine residents — fair and equal access to the appropriate restroom.
The new policy applies to all Denny’s restaurants in Maine.
According to Brian Mesley, a spokesman for Rockport-based Realty Resources Hospitality, “we recognize and support Ms. Freeman’s gender transition over the past three and a half years.”
“Her transition and this lawsuit presented a new issue for us,” he said, and “we believe the resolution in this case will work well for all of our customers and preserved the dignity and safety of all.”
Rep. Ken Fredette, R-Newport, tried unsuccessfully to roll-back trans protections to allow schools and businesses to decide who should be able to use their restroom facilities, saying there was no “absolute” right for trans people to use the restroom that comports with their gender identity.
This move was soundly defeated by both the chambers of the Maine Legislature that overwhelmingly rejected the legislation as discriminatory.