The supreme court of Maine has issued an opinion declaring that transgender children in the state’s public schools must be allowed to choose their own bathrooms despite their genitalia or how uncomfortable other students may feel about it.
The 5-1 decision, which came down on Thursday, marks the first time any state’s high court has ruled that transgender kids can use the bathroom with which they identify rather than the one matching their biological trappings, reports the Bangor Daily News.
The case, which originated in 2009 and stagnated for years in Maine’s courts, involved a fifth-grade student who wanted to use the girls’ bathroom. School officials said no because the student was not, in fact, a girl.
The child’s parents and the Maine Human Rights Commission sued the school district. The way the school treated the student and bullying by other students were also at issue.
“This sends a message to my children that you can believe in the system,” said Wayne Maines, the father of the victorious student, according to the Daily News.
The now-teenage student, Nicole Maines, also spoke to the press.
“I wouldn’t wish my experience on another trans person,” the transgender student said.
Jennifer Levi, director of the Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD) transgender rights project, was pleased with the outcome.
“A transgender girl is a girl and must be treated as such in all respects, including using the girls’ restroom,” Levi stridently insisted.
The decision appears to be a pretty limited interpretation of an anti-discrimination law already on Maine’s books.
“Our opinion must not be read to require schools to permit students casual access to any bathroom of their choice,” it reads. “Decisions about how to address students’ legitimate gender identity issues are not to be taken lightly. Where, as here, it has been clearly established that a student’s psychological well-being and educational success depend upon being permitted to use the communal bathroom consistent with her gender identity, denying access to the appropriate bathroom constitutes sexual orientation discrimination.”
The lone dissenting justice, Andrew Mead, observed that Maine has a law mandating that public schools have separate bathrooms for males and females. To the extent that law conflicts with anti-discrimination law, Mead suggested, the court should defer to the legislature to deal with it because the legislature is democratically chosen whereas the court is not.
Members of Maine’s supreme court are appointed by the state’s governor and confirmed by the state senate.
A lower-level court had found in favor of in favor of the Orono School District. (RELATED: Judge rules against parents of transgender 5th-grader)