A bill that would prevent transgender Mainers from being able to choose which bathroom they would prefer to use per their gender expression drew stiff opposition at a public Judiciary Committee hearing on Tuesday.
The bill, proposed by Rep. Kenneth Fedette, R-Newport, would stop transgender people being able to sue for discrimination if a public or private entity forces them to use the restroom that comports with their birth assigned sex rather than their self-defined gender identity or expression.
The Maine Human Rights Commission ruled in several prior cases that trans people have been discriminated against when their rights have been inhibited in this way. Rep. Kenneth Fredette served on the Maine Human Rights Commission when it decided on cases like these concerning Orono schools and an Auburn Denny’s Restaurant. He was a dissenting voice at the time and now wants to make his dissent a state law.
Fredette says a line has to be drawn somewhere, and that there is not an “absolute right” for a transgender person to be able to choose which restroom they use. He is quoted as going straight for the “think of the children” meme: “For example, he said, ‘What situation do we put young children in when they go into a private place and then what they perceive to be the person of the opposite sex comes into that bathroom? That could be quite shocking.’”
While this struck a chord with some at the committee hearing, the majority of people voiced strong opposition to the bill.
From Bangor Daily News:
But Tuesday morning Fredette was by far in the minority. During approximately four hours of public testimony, 30 minutes was taken up by the people supporting Fredette’s bill.
Wayne Maines was one of the first to speak against the bill.
“Like many of you I doubted transgender children could exist,” he said. “However I never doubted my love for my child.”
Maines’ 13-year-old daughter knew she was a girl at age 6, even though she’d been born a boy, he said. She was happy and her friends accepted her. But by fifth grade things got scary and the family had to “go into hiding” to protect the girl.
“She came to me crying and asked, ‘Daddy, what did I do wrong? Daddy, please fix this.’ That’s what dads do, we fix things. I had to break her heart and say, ‘You have not done anything wrong sweetie, but Mommy and I do not know how to fix this,’” Maines said Tuesday, crying. “This bill places transgender children in a position of doom and hopelessness.”
Several organizations spoke up against the bill saying that it put business owners in the position where they would have to determine the biological sex of customers before allowing them to use restrooms. Should they get it wrong, the said, they may then be liable. This proposal would likely land them in an untenable position, they concluded.
Supporters of the legislation said current law that allows trans people to choose the restroom in line with their gender identity opened up “legal access” for sexual predators so that they could invade female restrooms and prey on women and children. This is an argument that is often used, though opponents of transgender rights omit to say where instances of this kind of abuse have taken place.
Lawmakers have yet to schedule when the bill will next be reviewed.