For Immediate Release: May 16 2011
Contact: Ali Vander Zanden, EqualityMaine, Cell Phone: (207) 590-2299
Transgender Advocates Laud Judiciary Committee Vote Against LD 1046
Augusta, Maine – On May 13, in a bipartisan vote of 8 -5 the Joint Standing Committee on the Judiciary recommended that LD 1046, “An Act to Amend the Application of the Maine Human Rights Act Regarding Public Accommodations” ought not to pass. The bill would repeal part of the Maine Human Rights Act to take away existing protections for transgender people when accessing appropriate public restrooms.
“We applaud the judiciary committee for recognizing that there should be no exceptions in our Human Rights Act for discrimination,” said Alex Roan, executive director of Maine Transgender Network. “Non-discrimination laws send the message that discrimination is wrong and should not be the norm. Creating an exemption from the law, as LD 1046 would do, for bathrooms or other facilities, threatens to undermine all of the protections included in the Human Rights Act by sending the message that it is acceptable to discriminate against transgender people.”
Five Democrats, two Republicans and one Independent on the Judiciary committee voted against LD 1046. The bill will now be debated and voted on by the entirety of the House and Senate sometime during this legislative session.
“I applaud the legislators who voted today against repeal of existing human rights protections for transgender people in Maine. The reality is that transgender people are among the most marginalized and stigmatized people in our communities,” said Jennifer Levi, director of New England’s Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders’ Transgender Rights Project, who delivered expert testimony against LD 1046 at an April 12 public hearing. “Repealing protections would send exactly the wrong message, signaling to transgender people that they are not welcome and safe in Maine. It would be a great step backwards.”
The majority of testifiers at the public hearing on LD 1046 were Mainers who spoke in opposition to the bill, which is sponsored by Rep. Kenneth Fredette. Among those speaking out strongly against LD 1046 were NAACP board member Bob Talbot of Bangor; Elizabeth Ward-Saxl, executive director of the Maine Coalition Against Sexual Assault; Jennifer Finney Boylan, an openly transgender professor at Colby College and acclaimed author; Westbrook High School student Marissa Exchange, a member of the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network’s JumpStart Student Leadership Team; and many other transgender Mainers and their family members.