Legislators Vote Down Proposal to Allow Shelters to Turn Away Transgender Women
June 18, 2021 (AUGUSTA) – Yesterday the Maine legislature voted down a proposal (LD 1238) that would have allowed women’s shelters across the state to turn away transgender women or any woman they wanted to – whether because of their race, national origin, religion, disability, or sexual orientation.
A second proposal targeting transgender girls for exclusion from school sports was voted down 80-53 in the House late last night, and is still pending a vote in the Senate when the legislature reconvenes June 30. That bill received strong opposition at a May public hearing from coaches, pediatricians, transgender youth and their parents and peers, as well as Maine officials and organizations, including the Attorney General, former Chief Justice Leigh Saufley, the Maine Principals’ Association, and the Human Rights Commission.
Shelter service providers, community service and justice organizations spoke out against the shelter bill (LD 1238) and are applauding the legislature’s actions to support inclusion of transgender women, and all people, in need of survival and emergency services.
“Once again Mainers have stood up for fairness by saying no to harmful proposals that would deny transgender women access to shelter and vital social services. Shelters across our state play a critical role in providing safety to women in need. Turning transgender women away from shelters puts those women at risk of exactly the type of mistreatment and abuse our shelter services are meant to prevent,” said Gia Drew, Program Director at EqualityMaine.
“I’m proud to see our Maine legislators support inclusion for transgender women. I know well from my own work in the community that transgender women experience some of the highest rates of housing insecurity, harassment and violence among women in Maine. There is always more work our state can do to ensure our social service networks can fully support all women in times of need, but in defeating LD 1238 the legislature recognized that allowing shelters to turn away some of our most vulnerable community members is counter to that goal,” said Quinn Gormley , Executive Director, MaineTransNet.
“It’s a relief to see the legislature stop this misguided bill that targeted transgender women and would have opened the door to discrimination in shelters on the basis race, national origin, religion, disability, or sexual orientation as well. Efforts to ban trans women from shelters would deny shelter to some of our most vulnerable community members when they need help the most. Today our state has once again affirmed the truth: all people, including trans people, belong in Maine,” said Meagan Sway, Policy Director, ACLU of Maine
“We know we can accommodate all women, transgender or not, when they are in need of emergency and homeless shelter because, as legislators heard at the hearing on LD 1238, the dedicated individuals who staff and run our shelters have been doing just that. Managing the stress and conflict that can occur when individuals are experiencing trauma, vulnerability and less privacy and autonomy is some of the hard work performed by shelter staff and management. Women seek out shelter services when they are at their most vulnerable, whether due to trauma, houselessness, or violence. With this vote our legislators affirmed the inclusion required by law, and also what shelter providers said at the hearing: that all women, including transgender women, deserve access to survival services. This is the record we’ve built in Maine; we treat all humans with dignity and respect,” said Mary L. Bonauto, Civil Rights Project Director at GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders
“With this vote the legislature affirmed a simple fact: every Mainer deserves to live with safety and respect. For those who experience abuse or housing insecurity, community organizations help fill that gap. Organizations that exist to ensure that safety are exactly the right places to welcome and affirm trans Mainers, and there is no place for legislation in our state that does not guarantee the rights of everyone to live in dignity, free from abuse,” said Destie Hohman Sprague, Executive Director, Maine Women’s Lobby
Equality Maine works to secure full equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people in Maine through political action, community organizing, education, and collaboration. www.equalitymaine.org
MaineTransNet is Maine’s transgender community organization dedicated to supporting and empowering transgender people and those that love them. www.mainetrans.net
ACLU of Maine is the state’s guardian of liberty. It is active in the courts, the legislature and the public sphere to defend the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, and to extend their promises to all Mainers. www.aclumaine.org
Through strategic litigation, public policy advocacy, and education, GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders works in New England and nationally to create a just society free of discrimination based on gender identity and expression, HIV status, and sexual orientation. www.glad.org
The Maine Women’s Lobby engages in legislative advocacy which increases the health, wellness, safety, and economic security of women and girls in Maine, and all Mainers who experience gender-based discrimination or oppression. www.mainewomen.org