by Michael K. Lavers
Members of the New Hampshire House of Representatives on Thursday voted 187-179 to table a bill that would have added gender identity to the state’s nondiscrimination law.
Lawmakers also rejected a motion to reconsider debate of House Bill 478 that gay state Rep. Ed Butler (D-Harts Location) introduced.
“I introduced HB 478 because transgender Granite Staters need to be protected from the real and pervasive discrimination they face,” said Butler in a statement. “It motivates me to redouble my efforts to ensure everyone in New Hampshire is treated equally and fairly under the law, including transgender residents and visitors.”
HB 478 would have banned discrimination based on gender identity in housing, employment and accommodations.
The Republican-led House Health, Human Services and Elderly Affairs Committee last month approved HB 478 by a 15-2 vote margin. House Speaker Shawn Jasper (R-Hudson) led the opposition to the bill ahead of the March 2 vote.
“Those legislators who heard from transgender constituents, learned about their lives and why these protections are needed, voted overwhelmingly in favor of the measure just two weeks ago,” said Gerri Cannon, a trans woman who is a member of Freedom New Hampshire, a coalition of groups that support HB 478. “It is shameful that opponents of HB 478 would use scare tactics to permit discrimination against transgender Granite Staters.”
Thursday’s vote took place three days after the U.S. Supreme Court said it would not consider the case of Gavin Grimm, a trans student who filed a federal lawsuit against his Virginia school district’s bathroom policy.
President Trump on Feb. 22 rescinded guidance on how public schools should accommodate trans students. The Obama administration had said Title IX of the U.S. Education Amendments of 1972 requires them to allow students to use bathrooms consistent with their gender identity.
Then-Gov. Maggie Hassan, who is now a member of the U.S. Senate, last June signed an executive order that bans discrimination in state government based on gender identity. New Hampshire remains the only New England state that does not include trans-specific protections in its nondiscrimination law.
“This coalition is not going anywhere,” said Freedom New Hampshire Campaign Manager Linds Jakows. “We will continue our efforts to obtain explicit nondiscrimination protections for transgender individuals in New Hampshire.”