New Hampshire Governor Set to Sign Transgender Anti-Discrimination Bill
By Mila Madison
The bill passed the New Hampshire Senate by a vote of 14-10 on Wednesday, with four Republicans joining all ten Senate Democrats in voting yes. The bill had passed the New Hampshire house back in March.
Once it is signed by Gov. Sununu, the new law will ban gender identity discrimination in employment, housing, and public accommodations throughout the state. It grants the same protections as those that are already in place for race, sexual orientation and religion.
One of the supporters of the bill was Sen. Dan Innis, R-New Castle, who is openly gay and said everyone in the “Live Free or Die” state, including its estimated 4.500 transgender residents, should have the same protections. “These laws are necessary because of the pervasive discrimination that transgender people face at work, at home and in public,” Innis told the Associated Press. “I’m not transgender, but 10, 20 years ago, I experienced these discriminations. They’re painful.”
"We need freedom to be ourselves," said Gerri Cannon, the first openly transgender woman to be elected to a city school board in New Hampshire to NBC 10 in Boston prior to the vote. Cannon had spent a decade fighting for the bill. She also says that she has experienced discrimination because of her gender identity, and that she did not want other transgender people to feel the “despair and hopelessness” that she had felt. "I was a customer-facing person when I was laid off," Cannon said. "I have to believe that was part of the decision they let me go, because they weren't quite sure how customers were going to react to me."
Not all of New Hampshire’s Senators were 100% supportive of the bill. Sen. Bill Gannon, R-Sandown, said he was for employment and housing protections based on gender identity, but made transphobic comments when stating his objections to the public accommodation protections. "A lot of daughters want privacy rights in the bathroom or locker room," Gannon said. "They don't want to disrobe next to boys."
Sen. John Reagan, R-Deerfield, called out opponents of the bill for not being committed to equal protections for all. “A legitimate function of government is to provide protection,” he said. “If we’re not willing to, without sly suggestions, support anti-discrimination on anybody for whatever reason, then we don’t guarantee it to anyone.”
A similar bill was tabled by New Hampshire lawmakers in 2017. With it now passing, New Hampshire become the 20th state to have laws or policies that protect transgender people from discrimination in all three categories of employment, housing and public accommodations.