The Maine Human Rights Commission on Monday found that an assisted living facility discriminated against a transgender woman when it refused to
allow her to live there.
Commissioners found by a vote of 3-2 that Sunrise Assisted Living in Jonesport violated Maine’s nondiscrimination law by turning away 79-year-old Marie King, according to her legal team with GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders, also known as GLAD.
It is the first known discrimination complaint filed in the U.S. by a transgender older adult against a long-term care facility.
The Jonesport facility on Monday declined to comment on the commission’s decision through its attorney, John Hamer of Bangor.
King, who lives in a different assisted living facility Down East, said that she hoped the decision would help others like her.
“Being turned away because I’m transgender was wrong and it hurt,” she said. “It’s a relief to have the commission recognize that. I know I’m not the only person this has happened to and I hope my case leads to better understanding.”
King was referred in the spring of 2021 by a social worker at Pen Bay Medical Center to the assisted living facility when King was a patient at the Rockport hospital, the attorneys said. The facility initially said there was a room available, but upon learning that King was transgender Sunrise informed the hospital the home would not admit her because staff were concerned she wanted to reside in a room with a female roommate.
GLAD attorney Ben Klein said that Sunrise’s decision hurt King’s health.
“When Marie was denied a room at Sunrise because she is a transgender woman it was dehumanizing and it impacted her health, forcing her to stay in the hospital longer than was recommended by her medical team,” he said. “The outcome we are all working toward is long-term care facilities where everyone who needs them is welcomed with courtesy and respect.”
The next step in the process is a reconciliation meeting to determine what the facility must do to remedy the discrimination.
King also could sue the company for damages if reconciliation is unsuccessful.