The only state in New England lacking nondiscrimination protections for transgender people may finally be ready to cross the finish line.
The New Hampshire Senate passed legislation on Wednesday outlawing anti-trans bias in housing and employment by a narrow marginwith 14 lawmakers voting in favor of the bill and 10 against. House Bill 1319, which was sponsored by openly gay state Rep. Ed Butler (D-Hart’s Location), was approved by the House of Representatives in March following a 195 to 129 vote.
It’s been a long road for the Granite State, which has watched similar bills become law in Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Vermont. The House tabled a groundbreaking trans rights bill last year due to conservative opposition.
New Hampshire is just one of two states in the country that has anti-discrimination laws on the books which protect sexual orientation but not gender identity.
During debate in the General Court of New Hampshire this week, supporters of the legislation flipped an oft-cited conservative argument against trans-inclusive protections on its head. Sen. Bette Lasky (D-Nashua) described the legislation as simply “common sense,” as the Washington Blade reported.
“Anti-transgender discrimination is wrong,” added openly gay Sen. Dan Innis (R-New Castle).
Liam Magan, a 24-year-old transgender man who testified on behalf of the legislation, told lawmakers that he experiences frequent discrimination in the workplace due to his gender identity. His manager at the restaurant where Magan works intentionally uses the “wrong name and pronouns” to taunt him, he claimed.
After a day of “nitpicking” his job performance, Magan’s boss said he would call him by the name he was assigned at birth until he “[stops] messing everything up.”
Statistics show such transphobic treatment is extremely common in work environments. A 2015 survey from the National Center for Trans Equality found that one in four transgender people reported being fired from their job, denied a promotion, or not hired in the first place due to their gender identity.
HB 1319 found strong support among Republicans in the New Hampshire legislature, with 12 conservatives signing on to back the legislation. When it passed the House last month, over 50 GOPers voted in favor of the bill.
Yet some conservatives warned that passing HB 1319 would allow pedophiles to prey on women and children in public restroomsa debunked trope that casts transgender people as sexual predators. During March debate, Rep. Alfred Baldasaro claimed he didn’t want perverts “getting dressed or undressed” in the vicinity of “young children.”
“In our trying to help some people, we may inadvertently harm some people,” claimed Rep. Mark Pearson (R-Hampstead).
But there’s no evidence that others have anything to fear in sharing a restroom with transgender people. Of the 20 states and more than 200 municipalities across the U.S. which have passed trans-inclusive nondiscrimination protections, not a single one has seen an increase in sexual assaults as a result.
HB 1319 is now slated to head to Gov. Chris Sununu’s desk, and he has hinted he plans to sign it.
In a statement, GLAAD’s Vice President of Programs Zeke Stokes claimed its “critical” for the governor to follow through on that pledge “in order to ensure that everyone in New Hampshire has access to the same freedoms and protections under law.” Even though Sununu is a Republican, he said, “nondiscrimination protection is notand should never bea partisan issue.”
“No person should be fired, evicted, or denied service just because of who they are, and it is far beyond time that New Hampshire’s nondiscrimination protections include transgender people,” said Human Rights Campaign National Field Director Marty Rouse in a press release.
“Fair-minded people across the Granite State support these protections and recognize the importance of making New Hampshire an inclusive and welcoming state for all,” he added, calling the bill “one step closer to becoming law.”
A survey released Tuesday by the Public Religion Research Institute showed 78 percent of New Hampshire residents support LGBTQ-inclusive nondiscrimination protections.