Youth | Discrimination | Maine
Does Maine have an anti-discrimination law protecting LGBTQ+ individuals from discrimination?
Yes. On November 8, 2005, Maine voters agreed to keep in place a law, LD 1196, “An Act to Extend Civil Rights Protections to All People Regardless of Sexual Orientation”, passed by the Legislature and signed by the Governor in the spring of 2005. The law went into effect December 28, 2005.
This marks the end of a long struggle in Maine to achieve legal protections for LGBTQ+ people. In November 1995, Maine voters rejected an attempt to limit the protected classes to those already included within the non-discrimination law. In May 1997, Maine approved an anti-discrimination law based on sexual orientation, but this law was repealed in a special election in February 1998. Then in November 2000, by the smallest of margins, Maine voters failed to ratify a second anti-discrimination law that had been approved by the legislature.
The law provides protection against discrimination based on sexual orientation which is defined as “… a person’s actual or perceived heterosexuality, bisexuality, homosexuality or gender identity or expression” (5 Me. Rev. Stat. sec. 4553 (9-C)).
Does it also protect people perceived as LGBTQ+?
Yes. The non-discrimination law specifically covers people who are perceived to be LGBTQ+.
What kinds of discrimination does the anti-discrimination law address?
The Maine law prohibits discrimination in:
- Public Accommodations
- Credit and
- Education (5 Me. Rev. Stat. sec. 4552 et seq.)
How does the Maine anti-discrimination law apply to education?
Maine law applies to both public and private schools and makes the following discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation unlawful:
- to exclude a person from, deny a person the benefits of, or subject a person to discrimination in any academic, extracurricular, research, occupational training or other program or activity;
- to deny a person equal opportunity in athletic programs;
- to deny admission to the institution or program or fail to provide equal access to any information about an institution or program;
- to deny financial assistance availability and opportunity (5 Me. Rev. Stat. sec. 4602).
Are there any laws protecting LGBTQ+ students in Maine?
Yes. The state anti-discrimination law specifically protects students from discrimination based on sexual orientation, including gender identity and expression, in any academic, extracurricular, athletic, research, occupational training or other program or activity. It also protects students during the admissions process and in obtaining financial aid. The law defines “educational institution” as:
“any public school or educational program, any public post-secondary institution, any private school or educational program approved for tuition purposes if both male and female students are admitted and the governing body of each such school or program. For purposes related to disability-related discrimination, ‘educational institution’ also means any private school or educational program approved for tuition purposes” (5 Me. Rev. Stat. sec. 4553 (2) (A) (definition of “educational institution”)).
The complainant must file a complaint with the MHRC within 6 months. The MHRC will conduct the same type of investigation as it does in other types of discrimination cases (5 Me. Rev. Stat. sec. 4611).
Are there other laws which may protect me from discrimination and harassment because of my sexual orientation?
Possibly. Federal law prohibits sex discrimination in public schools that receive federal funding. Depending on the situation, harassment of LGBTQ+ students may be actionable as sex discrimination (e.g., Ray v. Antioch Unified School District, 107 F. Supp. 2d 1165 (N.D. Cal. 2000) (stating that attacks based on a student’s perceived sexuality constitute sex discrimination)). Harassment of transgender students in particular is actionable. Several federal courts have held that the federal anti-discrimination law, Title IX, prohibits discrimination based on gender identity (e.g., Whitaker v. Kenosha Unified School District No. 1 Bd. of Educ., 2017 U.S. App. LEXIS 9362 (7th Cir. 2017); cf. Bd. of Educ. v. U.S. Dep’t of Educ., 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 131474 (S.D. Ohio 2016)).
Complaints can be made to your school Title IX coordinator, as well as to:
Office of Civil Rights
The U.S. Department of Education
John W. McCormack Post Office & Courthouse, Room 222
Post Office Square
Boston, MA 02109
Additionally, some kinds of discrimination and harassment may violate a student’s constitutional rights.
What can I do if I’m being discriminated against at school?
There are many ways to approach the issue. One is to ask for support from a friend, teacher or counselor and talk to the people who are bothering you. That is not an option, however, if you don’t feel safe doing so.
Take a look at your school policies and notify whoever is supposed to be notified — usually a vice principal or Title IX coordinator. You should document any incidents of harassment or discrimination in writing with at least the date and time. Once you meet with the right officials, write yourself notes about what you told them and on what date and ask when they will be getting back to you with a response. If they don’t help you or don’t follow through, you may wish to write to the principal and superintendent and ask for them to end the discrimination.
Are there other non-discrimination protections available in Maine?
Yes. Several cities and towns have enacted non-discrimination ordinances, including Portland, Falmouth, South Portland, Long Island, Orono, Sorrento, Westbrook and Bar Harbor. In Clarke v. Olsten Certified Healthcare Corp., the Maine Law Court assumed without so stating that the Portland ordinance is enforceable (714 A.2d 823 (Me. 1998)).
Does Maine have a law that bans conversion therapy?
Yes, in 2019 Maine became the 17th state to pass a law, LD 1025 An Act to Prohibit the Provision of Conversion Therapy to Minors by Certain Licensed Professionals. It prohibits licensed professionals from advertising and administering so-called conversion therapy methodology to minors. Failure to follow the law can result in the revocation of the professional’s license.
State and national medical, mental health, and child welfare organizations all oppose the practice of conversion therapy, a practice that seeks to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity. Extensive professional literature shows the practice to be both ineffective in changing sexual orientation or gender identity and harmful to youth. Young people who have been subjected to conversion therapy are at increased risk of depression, suicidal thoughts and suicide attempts, and illegal drug use.
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