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For Immediate Release

Date: 04/07/11

Bill to Amend Human Rights Act Regarding Use of Facilities Set for April 12 Public Hearing

AUGUSTA - The Joint Standing Committee on Judiciary has scheduled a public hearing on Tuesday, April 12, for a bill by State Rep. Ken Fredette that would amend the Maine Human Rights Act regarding public restroom and shower facilities. The hearing is set for 1 p.m. in the Judiciary Committee room in the State House.

Rep. Fredette's bill, LD 1046, 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 restroom or shower facility designated for one biological sex is presumed to be restricted to that biological sex."

"I'm looking forward to working with the committee and all the individuals involved in this complex matter," said Rep. Fredette (R-Newport), a practicing attorney and a former member of the Maine Human Rights Commission. 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 restrooms 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 prior to sex reassignment surgery. 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. That 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' restroom. 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 must be understanding of the individuals involved, but these lawsuits could have far-reaching, negative consequences for any Maine business with separate bathroom facilities," said Rep. Fredette. "It really puts them in an untenable position and subjects them to potentially substantial financial loss."

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