In a move that has left many in the LGBTQ+ community and their allies reeling, the New Hampshire House of Representatives, with the support of some Democratic members, passed two bills aimed at curtailing the rights of transgender individuals. These developments mark a significant regression in the state’s stance on LGBTQ+ rights and have raised concerns about the future of transgender equality in New Hampshire.
The first bill, HB 396, allows for discrimination against transgender people in various public spaces, including athletic competitions and educational institutions. The second bill, HB 619, seeks to ban gender-affirming procedures for transgender youth. These legislative actions not only undermine the dignity and rights of the trans community but also threaten their access to essential healthcare and equal participation in public life.
Linds Jakows, co-founder of 603 Equality, expressed deep disappointment over the House’s decision, emphasizing the need for trans kids and their families to make private healthcare decisions without facing discrimination. Democratic Rep. Gerri Cannon, one of the state’s first openly transgender legislators, echoed this sentiment, expressing concern for the mental health and well-being of young transgender individuals.
In a surprising and troubling turn, twelve Democrats joined Republicans in voting for the gender-affirming care ban, while four Democrats supported the bill permitting discrimination against trans individuals in school bathrooms, sports, and prisons. The absence or abstention of several other Democrats played a crucial role in the passage of these bills.
Transgender activist and journalist Erin Reed highlighted the unexpected nature of this support on social media, calling out Democratic legislators who compromised on trans rights. Reed also noted that New Hampshire state Rep. Maria Perez (I), who previously showed support for the LGBTQ+ community, voted in favor of HB 619 and abstained on HB 396, raising questions about her commitment to LGBTQ+ rights.
As these bills move to the Republican-controlled Senate, there is a high likelihood of their passage, further endangering the rights and well-being of transgender individuals in New Hampshire. Chris Erchull, an attorney with GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders (GLAD), condemned the legislation as an abandonment of New Hampshire’s values of fairness and freedom. He urged the Senate to reject these “mean-spirited attempts to divide our communities.”
Governor Christopher Sununu (R) has not yet commented on the passage of these anti-trans bills. However, his previous opposition to the Biden administration’s proposals to protect transgender students’ rights to participate in sports aligning with their gender identity suggests a challenging path ahead for LGBTQ+ advocacy in the state.
As New Hampshire grapples with these developments, the LGBTQ+ community and its allies vow to continue their fight against what they see as dangerous and discriminatory legislation. The hope is that Governor Sununu will recall his previous support for transgender-inclusive nondiscrimination laws and veto these regressive bills, reaffirming New Hampshire’s commitment to equality and justice for all.