This past year, we have seen amazing strides in the fight for comprehensive non-discrimination protections for transgender people in the Granite State. With your help and the support of many others, our campaign built a groundswell of momentum for #TransBillNH. We hit many significant milestones, and had much to celebrate outside of the bill itself.
Let’s look back at some of the highlights in 2017, first concerning the bill, then victories surrounding it. We must use that goodwill to keep us going into the new year, when we will pass #TransBillNH once and for all!
HB 478, The First Bill of Its Kind in Nearly a Decade, Is Introduced in the New Hampshire Legislature
On January 12, 2017, House Bill 478, also known as #TransBillNH, was officially filed in the House. Rep.Ed Butler led the charge, and at the time of filing, the bill had eleven co-sponsors, including three Republicans — among them, Senate Majority Leader Jeb Bradley.
This marked the first time since 2009 that any bill had been introduced specifically addressing non-discrimination protections for transgender people in housing, employment, and public accommodations such as hospitals, hotels, and restaurants. The bill was assigned to the Health, Human Services, and Elderly Affairs (HHS) Committee.
#TransBillNH Receives Its First Committee Hearing, & Is Subsequently Recommended for A Vote
On February 15, 2017, the HHS Committee announced that it would grant #TransBillNH its first public hearing later that month, on February 21. Previous to the hearing, over 100 bipartisan lawmakers attended an informational lunch, where both information and informal testimony on the merits of the bill were heard. On February 21, over 100 attendees packed the hearing, including 80 people who showed up to testify.
Over the course of 3 hours, people across all different walks of life testified in favor of the bill, including faith leaders, business leaders, and many transgender people, young and old, who were front and center. The bill also picked up significant public endorsements from the Business and Industry Association, the Association of Chiefs of Police, and the New Hampshire Coalition Against Sexual and Domestic Violence.
The next day, February 22, by a bipartisan vote of 15-2, the committee overwhelmingly recommended #TransBillNH advance to the House for a full vote. This was a major accomplishment, as the committee was largely GOP-led. Prior to the vote, committee members had been contacted by their constituents over 1,500 times. Following the committee’s vote, the bill moved on to the full House for a vote—the first time such a bill would advance in a GOP-controlled chamber.
House Hearing Scheduled, But Tabled Days Later
On March 3, it was announced that the open hearing in front of the full House would be scheduled for March 8 or 9. Before the hearing, some lawmakers had introduced amendments to the bill for consideration.
On March 9, by a vote of 187-179, the House voted to table #TransBillNH. By tabling, the bill could neither be taken to the floor for a full vote nor debated in the chamber. A subsequent effort to to revive the bill and call for debate was also defeated 168-180. Leading the charge in the House to keep the bill from being brought for consideration was House Speaker Shawn Jasper.
This move by the Speaker was in direct opposition to the overwhelming bipartisan support the bill garnered, as well as an insult to the over 8,000 grassroots supporters who had called and emailed the legislators in support of #TransBillNH. The 179 representatives who voted against tabling the bill included 17 Republicans, showing significant bipartisan support.
Local Activism and Gatherings Keep Support for #TransBillNH Alive
From April to December of 2017, the fight to pass #TransBillNH did not slow down. A series of gatherings, from house parties to coffee meetings, continued to spur the conversation about the importance of non-discrimination protections for transgender Granite Staters. Many lawmakers attended these informal gatherings, continuing to show their support and to listen to the stories of individuals who would be most impacted by the passage of the legislation.
A New Day: #TransBillNH is Revived; Governor and Attorney General Announce Plans to Take on Anti-Transgender Discrimination
On December 14, New Hampshire governor Chris Sununu announced that he would create an 18-person committee tasked with investigating ways to combat discrimination, including discrimination against transgender Granite Staters. In addition, Attorney General Gordon McDonald also announced the creation of a Civil Rights Unit in the state’s Department of Justice.
Regarding Governor Sununu’s committee, a statement from his office states that it will, “Identify and recommend ways in which the State can support local and community efforts … to combat discrimination and advance diversity and inclusion,” as well as being able to recommend changes to the “scope of duties of the Commission for Human Rights.” The new head of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Unit, Elizabeth Leahy, included remarks about anti-transgender violence and discrimination in the list of issues her department will address.
Furthermore, #TransBillNH has been revived as House Bill 1319. It was officially filed for consideration for the 2018 legislative session, and will be assigned to the Judiciary Committee.The momentum from the announcements from the Governor’s and Attorney General’s offices is a huge burst that will carry us forward into the new year.
Influential Endorsement of Children’s Caucus Builds 2018 Momentum
On December 13, the campaign to pass #TransBillNH received the significant endorsement of the state legislature’s Children’s Caucus. During the group’s planning meeting, the vote for endorsement was nearly unanimous, 14-1, thereby becoming the first caucus to officially endorse the campaign.
Members of the caucus realized that it is important to send a message to transgender Granite Staters — particularly transgender youth — that discrimination must be stopped. This, in addition to the above mentioned committees formed by the Governor, provides incredible momentum for our campaign going into 2018.
We made a lot of headway 2017 in gathering support for #TransBillNH, but that wasn’t the only avenue where we made strides in protecting transgender Granite Staters from discrimination. There were many victories for our campaign outside the scope of #TransBillNH, too:
Number of School Districts With Transgender Student Protections Rises to 17
With the passage of comprehensive non-discrimination protections in the Pembrooke School District on November 21, there are now 17 schools throughout the state providing such protections to their students.
In 2015, the New Hampshire School Board Association released guidance for school districts on how best to treat transgender students, including the use of proper pronouns and access to facilities that correspond with a student’s gender identity. However, these are only guidelines, and 221 New Hampshire school district have yet to adopt transgender-inclusive policies. With #TransBillNH moving forward in 2018, it is our hope that schools will take this as a sign to follow suit.
Prohibition on Medicaid Coverage for Gender Affirmation Surgery Lifted
In one of the largest victories for the Granite State’s transgender community, on October 19 New Hampshire lawmakers on the state’s Joint Legislative Committee on Administrative Rules voted to lift the state Medicaid program’s prohibition on covering gender affirmation surgery. Earlier, the Department of Health and Human Services had signed off on the change.
This vote means that transgender people in New Hampshire will no longer have their access to essential medical care denied by discriminatory government policies. Now, these decisions will be a choice between patients and their doctors, without government involvement. Giving transgender Granite Staters the freedom to make their own medical decisions only adds to the momentum of our campaign to pass #TransBillNH.
We still have much work to do. Once #TransBillNH is introduced, we will have to work harder than ever before to mobilize our grassroots supporters, our business and faith coalitions, and our legislative allies to make sure our legislation not only comes before the House, but is granted a hearing and a full vote. The time has come to once and for all pass #TransBillNH, and explicitly protect our transgender friends and family from discrimination throughout the Granite State.
If you haven’t done so, sign our pledge saying you’ll stand up for the rights of transgender Granite Staters.
We need you in this fight. Join us.