A historic bill in the New Hampshire legislature would prohibit bias against transgender people in employment and housing.
House Bill 1319 would make gender identity a protected class under the state’s existing nondiscrimination laws, which are already inclusive of sexual orientation, as well as religion and sex. New Hampshire is the only state in New England that does not offer nondiscrimination protections to the trans community.
Although similar legislation was tabled by the state House of Representatives last year, another bill will receive a full House vote after receiving a recommendation from the Judiciary Committee on Tuesday.
LGBTQ advocates commended legislators for allowing the bill to move forward.
“New Hampshire state lawmakers sent a clear message that nobody should have to live in fear of being fired from their job because of who they are and for reasons that have nothing to do with job performance,” said President of CEO of GLAAD Sarah Kate Ellis in a statement.
“Every American should have the opportunity to work hard, provide for themselves and their families, and achieve their part of the American dream.” added CEO of Freedom for All Americans Masen Davis in a press release. “The strong bipartisan support for the bill shows that more and more Americans understand the importance of defending equal opportunity for their transgender neighbors.”
To date, 15 legislatorsboth Republicans and Democratshave signed onto HB 1319.
Supporters, like primary bill sponsor Rep. Edward Butler, claim it’s necessary to prevent discrimination against the state’s most vulnerable populations.
“As a gay man, I understand how important this legislation will be to provide needed protections,” Butler said during a Feb. 21 public hearing held at Representatives Hall. “But also to say to our transgender citizens by the legislative body of this state in a very unambiguous way: you deserve to be seen, recognized, protected, and supported for who you are.”
As a National Center for Transgender Equality Spokesperson Jay Wu noted in an email to INTO, transgender people “face disproportionately high levels of discrimination and harassment” in municipalities across the United States.
In a 2017 report from NCTE, three in 10 respondents to a nationwide survey claimed they’d been fired or denied a promotion in the past year due to their gender identity. Nearly a quarter of the 28,000 people polled by the national advocacy group said they’d been evicted from their home or refused an apartment in the past year.
“We continue to lack explicit federal nondiscrimination protections for trans people, so it’s important for states to pass laws like this to ensure that trans people in those states can have equal opportunity in all areas of life,” Wu claimed.
But opponents of the bill voiced an oft-cited argument: that trans rights give a free pass to predators to target young girls.
“When you get in the shower and the locker room and you’re getting changedare my granddaughters going to be in there with transgender that have a package?” said Rep. Al Baldasaro during last week’s public hearing. “That’ll be in the showers or changing room, does this bill open that door?”
The myth that trans bathroom access is a slippery slope to abuse has been widely debunked. In the more than 200 municipalities with inclusive nondiscrimination protections, none have witnessed an outbreak in sexual assaults.
Dover Police Chief Anthony Colarusso personally addressed those concerns at the hearing, which was so packed it had to be moved to another meeting room.
“When I was a little boy, my father used to tell me stories,” Colarusso said, as originally reported by New Hampshire Public Radio. “Some were good, some were scary. And he told me the story about the boogeyman. That somebody would use this bill, specifically, to say ‘Oh, now I have license to go into a bathroom and dress up as a woman or whatever and molest somebody’that’s the boogeyman.”
Gov. Chris Sununu has indicated his support for HB 1319. Should the bill become law, New Hampshire would become the 21st state to enact statewide nondiscrimination protections for trans people.
Photo via GettyImages/valentinrussanov
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