Lebanon Approves Transgender Policy

CLICK HERE to read the original article on Valley News.

By Tim Camerato

Lebanon — The City Council voted unanimously on Wednesday to approve a resolution calling for greater protections of New Hampshire’s transgender population and changes to city policy.

The resolution calls for the City Manager’s Office to create an anti-discrimination policy that protects Lebanon’s transgender municipal workers from retaliation and harassment.

City officials didn’t say when that change is expected to take place during the meeting, but Interim City Manager Paula Maville previously said she would create the policy if asked by the council.

“I think we are an inclusive city that does value equality, fairness,” Councilor Karen Liot Hill said shortly before the vote.

The measure was greeted with applause from the audience of more than 20 people, who filled most of the seats in the council chamber.

“I’m an ally and I love my community, and I just want to say that it would be wonderful if we could be on the correct side of history and put equality for all out there,” one woman told the council.

Lebanon resident Bob Riccio pointed out that the City Council has just recited the Pledge of Allegiance.

“ ‘With liberty and justice for all,’ ” he quoted back to the councilors.

The council initially took up the resolution at the behest of Doug Marino, a University of New Hampshire student affiliated with Freedom New Hampshire, a group that promotes legislation protecting transgender Granite Staters from discrimination. He’s recently introduced and won passage of the measure in several communities, starting in Durham, N.H.

“As time went on, other towns and cities began to take notice of this and take action as well,” Marino told the council.

Lebanon’s current anti-harassment policy offers protection against discrimination based on “sex/gender, race, color, national origin, religion, age, sexual orientation, physical or mental disability, pregnancy, marital status, veteran status, genetic profile or any other legally-protected status.”

The policy is in effect when municipal employees are in work-related settings or attending to work-related activities, and it applies to all of Lebanon’s workers, volunteers and officials.

City officials have said they would not discriminate against a transgender employee regardless of the policy. But some have said that without it in writing, the city’s attitude could change as administrators come and go.

“The one gap was that there’s no mention of transgender citizens,” City Councilor Sarah Welsch said of the policy.

Welsch, who introduced the legislation, said it was meant to both make changes on a local level and offer support to statewide legislation.

Last month, state legislators voted to table a House bill that would have barred discrimination of transgender people in housing, employment and at public accommodations, such as restaurants and movie theaters, The Associated Press reported.

Eighteen other states, including the five other New England states, offer similar protections, according to the AP. But the bill was halted by conservative legislators who worried men would use it to enter women’s restrooms.

Rep. Sue Almy, D-Lebanon, said she believes the bill would have been approved if presented for an up or down vote, but Republicans weren’t willing to break ranks with Speaker Shawn Jasper to bring it to the House floor.

However, city councilors expressed hope that the bill will make another appearance before the House.

If enough towns passed similar resolutions, the New Hampshire Municipal Association could throw its support behind legislation, bringing in its lobbying capabilities, Liot Hill said.

Others supported the resolution and what it would symbolize for Lebanon.

“We are fair and equal and ‘liberty and justice for all,’ ” Mayor Sue Prentiss said, echoing the Pledge of Allegiance. “It means a lot.”

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Lebanon to Consider Transgender Policy

April 4, 2017 by admin

CLICK HERE to read the original article at Valley News.

By Tim Camerato

Lebanon — The City Council plans to discuss this week whether to add transgender employees to the list of those protected in the city’s anti-harassment policy.

A resolution proposed by Councilor Sarah Welsch asks the city manager to adopt a formal policy forbidding discrimination of transgender municipal workers, and communicate that policy with department heads and employees.

Welsch declined to comment on the proposal when reached on Monday, and directed questions to Interim City Manager Paula Maville.

According to documents on the city’s website, the resolution was initially brought to the council by Doug Marino, a student at the University of New Hampshire who also works with Freedom New Hampshire, a group that supports legislation aimed at better protecting the state’s transgender population.

“By taking this action, the (City Council) would be sending a very strong message that Lebanon is a place were all people are welcome regardless of their identity,” Marino wrote in a January email to the council.

Marino said on Monday he began advocating for policy changes in Durham, after learning that New Hampshire is the only New England state that doesn’t provide legal protections against discrimination for transgender people. Once Durham passed its own changes, he said, other municipalities began to follow suit, including the town of Newmarket, and the Portsmouth and Dover School Districts.

Lebanon’s current anti-harassment policy prohibits and physical, verbal or visual discrimination of municipal workers based on “sex/gender, race, color, national origin, religion, age, sexual orientation, physical or mental disability, pregnancy, marital status, genetic profile or and other legally-protected status.”

The policy applies to all city employees, officials, contractors and volunteers and is in effect for all work-related activities.

But officials say it’s unlikely that adopting the resolution will change how city employees are treated.

“We don’t discriminate on any grounds whatsoever,” said Maville on Monday. “We wouldn’t discriminate against a transgender person regardless (of the policy).”

The same applies for the Lebanon Police Department, according to Chief Richard Mello.

“Equal opportunity and anti-discrimination policies are in the books regardless of what (the council does) with this resolution and what else they may include,” he said. “It doesn’t change our policies and practices at all.”

That might be so for now, said Grace Alden, a former Lebanon police officer, but without a policy on the books, she said, those attitudes could change as administrators and department heads come and go.

When Alden announced her own transition from a male to female in 2012, the department was run by then-Chief James Alexander, who took the position that she was covered by anti-discrimination policies already in place. However, formally amending the city policy would bring more clarity and consistency down the line, she said.

“I’m in favor of it and I guess my thinking is, why would you not?” Alden asked. “If you have a class of people in our city who very demonstrably face pretty amazing levels of discrimination in housing, unemployment, in access to public accommodations, in access to medical care, why would you not pass a law, pass a resolution or enact policies (banning discrimination)?”

However, it’s not certain the City Council will take any action on Welsch’s resolution, Maville said. Although the resolution calls for change in Lebanon, much of the proposal espouses support for state legislation that appears to have stalled.

Early last month, the New Hampshire House voted to table a bill that sought to bar discrimination based on gender identity in housing, employment and public accommodations, including restaurants and movie theaters, according to the Associated Press.

Conservative legislators worried the bill would allow men to exploit the law to enter women’s restrooms, the AP reported. The legislation would now require a two-thirds majority to come up for a debate.

Alden attended hearings for the bill and stood outside the Statehouse with a sign that on one side read “It’s not about bathrooms” and “It wasn’t about water fountains” on the other.

She called the conservative argument on bathrooms a “boogeyman” and said there’s little to no recorded evidence of someone posing as transgender to assault another person. Instead, she said, research has shown transgender people are more likely to be victims of an assault.

The City Council is scheduled to take up the resolution at 7 p.m. on Wednesday in City Hall.

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