PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — A transgender fifth-grader should have been allowed to use the girls' bathroom, Maine's highest court ruled Thursday, concluding that school officials violated state anti-discrimination law.
Nicole Maines' family and the Maine Human Rights Commission sued in 2009 after school officials required her to use a staff, not student, restroom.
The Maine Supreme Judicial Court concluded that the Orono school district's actions violated the Maine Human Rights Act, which bans discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity, overturning a lower court's ruling that the district acted within its discretion.
The ruling represented the first time a state high court concluded that a transgender person should use the bathroom of the gender with which they identify, according to Boston-based Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders. Federal courts haven't taken up the issue.
"This is a momentous decision that marks a huge breakthrough for transgender young people," said Jennifer Levi, director of GLAD's Transgender Rights Project, who argued the case on the family's behalf before the state supreme court.
Students at the southern Maine high school Nicole now attends stood up and cheered when news of the ruling was announced, said her father, Wayne Maines.
School administrators across the country are grappling with the issue.
Colorado officials said last year that a suburban Colorado Springs school district discriminated against a 6-year-old transgender girl by preventing her from using the girls' bathroom.
In California, there's an effort afoot to try to repeal a law that allows public school students to use bathrooms and locker rooms that correspond with their expressed genders.
In the Maine case, Nicole Maines was using the girls' bathroom in her elementary school until the grandfather of a fifth-grade boy complained to administrators. The Orono school district determined that she should use a staff bathroom, but her parents said that amounted to discrimination.