The rights of a transgender girl from Orono were violated when school administrators made her use a staff bathroom at her elementary school instead of the girls' restroom, the Maine Supreme Judicial Court ruled Thursday
Nicole Maines, with her father Wayne Maines, left, and brother Jonas, speaks to reporters outside court in June 2013 after arguments on the Maines' lawsuit. "I just hope (the justices) understand how important it is for students to go to school, get an education, have fun ... and not have to worry about being bullied," Nicole said at the time.
The ruling is the first in which a state supreme court has affirmed a transgender person's right to equal access to restrooms in places of public accommodation.
Lawyers representing Nicole Maines, who is now 16, said the decision could lay a foundation for other states' courts that are facing questions about the emerging rights of people who identify as the opposite of their birth gender.
"I'm extremely proud of our state and our leaders, of what they did," said Wayne Maines. His daughter was attending the Asa Adams School in Orono in 2007 when the guardian of another student objected to her use of a communal girls' bathroom. Administrators intervened, telling Nicole to use a separate, unisex faculty bathroom.
In brief, emotional remarks Thursday, Wayne Maines spoke of the importance of educating the public about transgender issues, and said the legal process worked for his daughter.
"It sends the message that you can believe in the system," he said.
The court's 5-1 ruling is the first interpretation of a 2005 amendment to the Maine Human Rights Act that added language protecting transgender people in schools.
What, we can only wonder, does Paul Melanson have to say now?
Melanson's name doesn't appear in the Maine Supreme Judicial Court's decision, handed down Thursday, affirming the right of a transgender student to use the girls' restroom at her public school.
But he's right there in the court's narrative about how Nicole Maines, then a vulnerable fifth-grader, careened from the way life should be to a living hell.
"Her use of the girls' bathroom went smoothly, with no complaints from other students' parents, until a male student followed her into the restroom on two separate occasions, claiming that he, too, was entitled to use the girls' bathroom," the court found. "The student was acting on instructions from his grandfather, who was his guardian and was strongly opposed to the school's decision to allow (Nicole) to use the girls' bathroom."
Melanson was that grandfather. And while the court's landmark decision was technically against Regional School Unit 26 in Orono, which did the right thing by Nicole only to wilt when the spotlight shone too brightly on its neck of the woods, it's also a long-overdue repudiation of the man who used his own grandson to target another innocent child.