What Trump’s reversal on federal transgender safeguards means for Maine

Republican President Donald Trump sent ripples of concern through the nation’s LGBT community on Wednesday when his administration revoked federal guidelines that provided anti-discrimination protections for transgender students. The move reverses a previous decree by Democratic President Barack Obama which protected transgender students’ right to use the restroom of their gender identity.

The Justice and Education departments notified the U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday that the administration will be sending a two-page letter to schools, telling them to disregard the Obama directive that prohibiting transgender students from using bathrooms aligned with their gender identity violates federal anti-discrimination laws.

The issue causes ripples here in Maine for a few reasons, but not because it would affect the law here. In May 2016, Republican Gov. Paul LePage supported a lawsuit by 11 states against Obama’s order. LePage signed onto the suit “pro se,” which means neither he nor the state of Maine became a plaintiff but that LePage wanted to make a point about his personal beliefs on this topic.

In December 2015, LePage and other state Republican officials filed a legal brief against an American Civil Liberties Union lawsuit in Virginia on behalf of a transgender student whose school board ruled he must use a private bathroom.

Regardless of the governor’s involvement in those cases, Trump’s latest executive order won’t affect Maine. For one, Trump has said he believes in states’ rights on this issue. Secondly, the Maine Supreme Judicial Court ruled in 2014 in favor of a transgender student who sued the Orono school district for the right to use the restroom of her choice. In addition, the Maine Human Rights Act protects transgender students in schools. — Christopher Cousins

Quick hits

  • Lawmakers look ready to act on a budget bill. No, not that one. The Legislature’s Appropriations Committee is scheduled to hold a work session today on LD 302, a supplemental budget bill that would appropriate more money in the current fiscal year. That includes a $35 million deposit to the budget stabilization fund, otherwise known as the rainy day fund and $7 million for the Maine Military Authority, among other items. Democrats are preparing an amendment that would provide additional funding, through a competitive grant program, for opioid addiction treatment providers. The details were not yet available early Thursday morning. Votes on the biennial state budget bill, which covers the next two years, are still weeks or months away.
  • Public school consolidation grants are now available. The Department of Education has released application materials for the new pool of competitive grants that Gov. Paul LePage has made available for school districts who want to try innovative consolidation schemes. To support that effort, Acting DOE Commissioner Robert G. Hasson and others will lead a public information session at 6 p.m. on Feb. 27 at Eastern Maine Community College in Bangor, in Rangeley Hall, Room 107.
  • Live free (with concealed weapons) or die. Republican New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu on Wednesday signed a bill into law which allows Granite Staters to carry concealed firearms without a permit. With the bill, New Hampshire becomes the 11th “constitutional carry” state in the country. Maine enacted a similar law in 2015.
  • LePage reschedules town hall meeting. Gov. Paul LePage’s next town hall meeting will be held at 6 p.m. March 8 at the AMVETS Post 2 at 148 North Road in Yarmouth. An event in this location was previously rescheduled because of a snowstorm.

Reading list

Best of Maine’s Craigslist

BBQ: The great aphrodisiac. Buckle up for this anecdote from a woman to a man she saw eating alone at Moe’s BBQ in South Portland. They made eye contact and “it was electric.” Because he got ribs, she did too, hoping “you would notice the extra sauce I added.” Our heroine says the man “smiled as I ate my meat.” This isn’t how I enjoy my food.

Big eagle and a scone? Big eagle and a scone. I was by a lake you know yesterday and the biggest bald eagle was about 12 feet away looking into the ice. He was pretty cool, way bigger than the owl,” someone says. “Would you have any interest in sharing a scone or something with me?” I have no context, but here’s your soundtrack. — Michael Shepherd

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Christopher Cousins

About 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.