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For Immediate Release

Date: 03/11/11

Rep. Fredette Submits Bill to Amend Maine Human Rights Act Regarding Use of Facilities

AUGUSTA - State Rep. Ken Fredette has submitted legislation to amend the Maine Human Rights Act regarding public rest room and shower facilities.

The bill provides that it is not unlawful public accommodation discrimination for a public or private entity, such as schools and restaurants, to restrict rest room and shower use to members of a "biological sex," regardless of sexual orientation. The legislation states that, unless otherwise indicated, "a rest room or shower facility designated for one biological sex is presumed to be restricted to that biological sex."

Rep. Fredette (R-Newport), a practicing attorney, said he proposed the bill in the wake of two cases of alleged discrimination where a restaurant manager and school officials refused to allow transgendered individuals to use rest rooms intended for the "opposite sex."

In one case involving a Denny's restaurant in Auburn, the owners were sued after refusing to allow a male-to-female transgendered person to use the ladies room until she had sex reassignment surgery. The incident occurred in 2007, when Brianna Freeman, of Lewiston, formerly known as Bruce, used a stall in the ladies room while dressed as a woman. A female Denny's patron complained to the manager about sharing a public bathroom with a man. The Maine Human Rights Commission ruled that discrimination had taken place. The case is still in court.

In the other incident, at Orono Middle School, school officials refused to allow a male-to-female sixth-grader to use the girls' rest room. The Human Rights Commission ruled last September that the school had discriminated against the student, even though the school had accommodated the child by providing a separate transsexual bathroom and private locker room.

"We need clarification of this issue," said Rep. Fredette, who was appointed to the Human Rights Commission by former Gov. John Baldacci. He no longer serves on the commission since his election to the Legislature. "We should be understanding of the individuals involved, but these lawsuits could have far-reaching, negative consequences for any Maine business with separate bathroom facilities. It really puts them in an untenable position and subjects them to potentially substantial financial loss."

The bill has not yet been assigned a Legislative Document (LD) number, but co-sponsors include Rep. Phil Curtis (R-Madison), leader of the House Republicans, and Rep. Andre Cushing (R-Hampden), the assistant leader of the House Republicans. ###

Jay Finegan
Maine House Republicans
Tel: (207) 287-1445