In another major victory for transgender rights this week, New Hampshire’s Republican-controlled House of Representatives voted on Wednesday in favor of a bill that prohibits discrimination against transgender individuals.
The bill, which passed 195-129, bans discrimination in housing, employment and public accommodations on the basis of gender identity. It now goes to the Senate, where supporters said they expect it to pass. If it does, the legislation would then head to the desk of Republican Gov. Chris Sununu, who has suggested he will sign it.
Supporters of the anti-discrimination bill ― called HB 1319 ― said it will go a long way in protecting the state’s transgender community and providing them with equal opportunities.
“No person should be fired, evicted or denied service just because of who they are, and it is far beyond time that the Granite State’s non-discrimination protections include transgender people,” Marty Rouse of the Human Rights Campaign said in a statement. “We call on the New Hampshire Senate to swiftly pass this bill and send it to Governor Sununu’s desk for his signature.”
When the vote was announced on the House floor on Wednesday, video of the visitor’s gallery showed people cheering and applauding. For supporters of the bill, the victory was particularly sweet as it came about a year after a similar bill stalled in the House.
“As part of the transgender community, I’ve seen so much pain,” local resident Gerri Cannon told WMUR. “People struggling to keep their jobs, people being fired just because they’re transgender, people being thrown out of their apartments because some guy doesn’t like who they are.”
Opponents of the bill argued that extending anti-discrimination protections could have negative repercussions, with some Republican lawmakers repeating the oft-touted ― and debunked ― idea that predatory men would be able to prey on women and girls in places like public restrooms if such legislation was passed.
“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. Never again will there be a safe space for women,” said Rep. Jeanine Notter (R-Merrimack), per the AP.
Rep. Al Baldasaro (R-Londonderry) questioned if the bill would “open up the doors where a male who is a female is able to take a shower with my granddaughters.”
Supporters lambasted this reasoning as flawed and misguided.
“None of the jurisdictions where these protections exist have experienced increases in harassment, violence or any other public safety issue in public bathrooms or locker rooms,” said Rep. Ed Butler (D-Hart’s Location), who was one of the bill’s sponsors.
It’s been a big week for transgender rights across the country.
On Monday, a federal judge in Idaho struck down a state policy barring transgender people from changing the assigned gender on their birth certificates.
In a landmark decision on Wednesday, a federal appeals court ruled that it’s illegal for employers to discriminate against transgender workers under Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of “race, color, religion, sex [or] national origin.”
New Hampshire is currently the only New England state where there are no anti-discrimination laws protecting transgender people. If HB 1319 is signed into law, it could have a positive domino effect across the nation.
“New Hampshire may be small but it has an outsized national political significance ... which is precisely why transgender Americans like myself were watching the Granite State’s House of Representatives so closely on Wednesday,” Daily Beast writer Samantha Allen wrote. “A win for [the] transgender rights bill wouldn’t just be significant for the estimated 4,500 transgender people in New Hampshire, but for anyone who wants to see such protections spread even further beyond progressive bastions like the West Coast and more liberal parts of New England.”