AUGUSTA — Gov. Paul LePage has pledged his name in support of a lawsuit against guidance from President Barack Obama’s administration that transgender students must be allowed to use the bathroom of their choice.

Lepage joined a lawsuit spearheaded by the state of Texas and joined by the states of Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Utah, West Virginia and Wisconsin, as well as the Arizona Department of Education.

LePage spokesman Peter Steele said Wednesday afternoon that Maine is not a plaintiff in the suit, but that the governor has signed on to it “pro se,” which means on his own personal behalf.

“The Obama administration continues to be reckless with its overreach of federal mandates on states,” wrote Steele in response to questions from the Bangor Daily News. “Recently, the president unilaterally forced overtime rules on the states, which will have a devastating effect on our economy. The Obama administration is also threatening to use its authority to designate a national monument in the Katahdin region. The president is dictating by fiat, and governors are pushing back.”

A top Maine Democratic leader and the American Civil Liberties Union of Maine have lambasted LePage for joining the lawsuit.

Sen. Justin Alfond, D-Portland said states that have passed discriminatory policies — like Indiana and North Carolina — have “invited boycotts and damaged their state’s reputations.”


Alfond said LePage is on the “wrong side of history.”

Alison Beyea, executive director of the ACLU of Maine, questioned whether LePage even has the authority to join the lawsuit.

Maine Attorney General spokesman Tim Feeley said LePage would have needed approval if he entered the lawsuit on behalf of the state. LePage is the only governor named in the lawsuit.

“Maine law required approval of the attorney general for anyone other than the attorney general to file an entry of appearance or represent the state in any legal matter, and our approval was not obtained in this case,” Feeley told the Bangor Daily News. “The governor’s position in this particular matter, moreover, appears to be inconsistent with the law of Maine as enunciated by the Maine supreme court.”

LePage’s involvement in the suit against Obama comes about six months after he interjected himself into a federal case in Virginia over a transgender boy’s challenge of his school’s bathroom-use policy, and two years after the Maine supreme court ruled in favor of a transgender girl’s rights in Orono.

In 2014, the Maine Supreme Judicial Court ruled in favor of Nicole Maines in a lawsuit against the Orono school district, guaranteeing transgender students the right to use school bathrooms corresponding to the gender with which they identify.


Matthew Moonen, director of EqualityMaine, an LGBT advocacy group, said he was disappointed but not surprised by LePage’s move.

“This is over the Obama administration’s directive to schools that they need to treat students according to their gender identity,” said Moonen. “This is the second lawsuit in a row that the governor has joined attacking the rights of transgender kids. We think it’s a shame that this is how the governor is choosing to spend his summer. We expect the suit to fail.”

Many of the conservative states involved had previously vowed defiance, calling the guidance a threat to safety while being accused of discrimination by supporters of transgender rights. U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch has previously said “there is no room in our schools for discrimination.”

The White House had no comment on the lawsuit. The Justice Department said it would review the complaint and did not comment further.

Texas’ lieutenant governor has previously said the state is willing to forfeit $10 billion in federal education dollars rather than comply. The directive from the U.S. Justice and Education Departments represents an escalation in the fast-moving dispute over what is becoming the civil rights issue of the day.

Pressed about whether he knew of any instances in which a child’s safety had been threatened because of transgender bathroom rights, Republican Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said “there’s not a lot of research” during a news conference about the lawsuit. He said he his office has heard from concerned parents, but didn’t say how many, and said he did not meet with any parents of transgender students before drafting the lawsuit.


The states claim that the directive demands “seismic changes” in schools across the U.S. and forces them to let students choose a bathroom “that match their chosen ‘gender identity’ on any given day.”

Two school districts joined the states in the lawsuit: one is the tiny Harrold school district in North Texas, which has roughly 100 students and passed a policy this week requiring students to use the bathroom based on the gender on their birth certificate. Superintendent David Thweatt said his schools have no transgender students to his knowledge but defended the district taking on the federal government.

“It’s not moot because it was thrusted upon us by the federal government,” Thweatt said, “or we were going to risk losing our federal funding.”

The question of whether federal civil rights law protects transgender people has not been definitively answered by the courts and may ultimately be decided by the Supreme Court. But schools that refuse to comply could be hit with civil rights lawsuits from the government and could face a cutoff of federal aid to education.

The guidance was issued after the Justice Department and North Carolina sued each other overs a state law that requires transgender people to use the public bathroom that corresponds to the sex on their birth certificate. The law applies to schools and many other places.

Supporters say such measures are needed to protect women and children from sexual predators, while the Justice Department and others argue the threat is practically nonexistent and the law discriminatory.

Education officials in Arizona said campuses already had policies to protect students from bullying and discrimination “regardless of their gender identity.” A small Arizona school district also joined in the lawsuit.

“The fact that the federal government has yet again decided that it knows what is best for every one of our local communities is insulting and, quite frankly, intolerable,” Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Diane Douglas said.

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