Transgender people in New Hampshire moved one step closer on Wednesday to being equally protected under the law.
The state’s House of Representatives passed a nondiscrimination act forbidding bias in housing, employment, and public accommodations on the basis of gender identity by a 195-129 vote. Currently, New Hampshire is the only state in New England which allows trans individuals to be fired, denied employment, or refused housing under the law.
House Bill 1319 passed the House Judiciary Committee in February by a 10 to 8 margin, and it now heads to the Senate.
Although the upper house of the legislature is majority Republican, HB 1319 enjoys widespread support on both sides of the aisle. Twelve of the legislators who have signed onto the pro-LGBTQ bill are conservatives.
One of the bill’s Republican supporters, Rep. Dan Hynes, is agender. Hynes, who voted to table the legislation last year, says he has never encountered discrimination on the basis of his gender identity because he does not disclose his status to others. But he believes his experiences shouldn’t stop others from being granted the protections they need.
“There are many people out there who suffer on a daily basis, and we need this law to protect everyone regardless of their gender identity,” Hynes said this week, as originally reported by the Associated Press.
LGBTQ advocates praised New Hampshire for taking a necessary step toward becoming the 21st state with fully inclusive nondiscrimination protections. CEO of Freedom for All Americans Masen Davis credited the bill’s passage in the House to a “robust months-long campaign” on the part of transgender people in the state “to educate legislators about who they are.”
“This win took place because legislators met with their transgender constituents, listened to their stories, and understood the urgent need to ensure equal protections,” Davis in a statement.
“The momentum behind the fight for equal rights in New Hampshire is growing as lawmakers and citizens alike continue to assert the importance of this transgender-inclusive legislation,” added Sarah Kate Ellis, President and CEO of GLAAD, in a statement. She stressed the importance of ensuring “transgender people have the same vital protections against discrimination granted to all people of New Hampshire.”
Trans individuals in the U.S. report experiencing widespread prejudice on the basis of their gender identity. Nearly half of respondents (46 percent) in a 2015 survey from the National Center for Trans Equality say they had been harassed in the past year, while 10 percent were sexually assaulted.
Opponents of HB 1319, however, say the bill would relegate women to a “second-class” status should it become law.
“If a violent man wants to harm a woman, all he has to do is say he identifies as a woman and he can go wherever he pleases,” claimed Republican Rep. Jeanine Notter during the vote, citing a widely debunked myth. “Never again will there be a safe space for women. That members of this House are voting to put us in danger is appalling.”
Republican governor Chris Sununu has already signaled his support for the legislation should it pass the Senate, which remains to be seen. Previous versions of the bill have been killed by conservatives in the upper house of the legislature.
Photo by Visions of America/UIG via Getty Images