All Eyes Look to HHS Committee for Recommendation on #TransBillNH After Packed Hearing February 21, 2017

Moments ago, the House Health, Human Services and Elderly Affairs (HHS) Committee wrapped up debate on #TransBillNH (House Bill 478), a bill that would expand New Hampshire’s non-discrimination laws to protect transgender Granite Staters.

The hearing lasted over 3 hours and drew more than one hundred attendees, the vast majority of whom were there to support non-discrimination protections for transgender Granite Staters. According to a final tally from the acting committee chair Rep. Donald Lebrun, 80 people showed up to testify.

Before the hearing, supporters gathered outside State House for a visibility action to show lawmakers and attendees as they arrived to the State House the strong support for #TransBillNH. The crowd cheered, waved signs and continued to grow steadily until around 1 p.m., when supporters were led into the hearing room for the meeting’s 1:15 p.m. start.

HB 478’s primary sponsor, Rep. Ed Butler, opened the meeting to a standing-room-only crowd of supporters from all walks of life, including dozens of business leaders, clergy, public safety officials, veterans, educators and other allies who support protecting the transgender community from discrimination.

Front and center were transgender Granite Staters themselves, including a handful of transgender teens, who bravely told committee members their stories of discrimination and how HB 478 could prevent others from going through the same hardships.

One testifier was Gerri Cannon, whose employer of 31 years reprimanded her and eventually let her go after she came out as transgender. She attempted to seek legal help, but lawyers told her she had no case since there were no state or federal laws that prohibited employment discrimination based on gender identity.

“The frustration was that there was no way to fight it. In my situation, I couldn’t rely on the law. From a business standpoint, nothing was clear as relates to a transgender person. There were no guidelines on what does the company do if you try to transition. There was nothing I could call on.” – Gerri Cannon, who was fired for being transgender

Another testifier was Dave Juvet, the senior vice president of public policy at the Business and Industry Association. The BIA is a statewide trade association that advocates for business-friendly laws and policies.

“Our trans brothers and sisters are human. They are valuable citizens and employees. They deserve the same civil rights,” he said. And businesses know this—that’s why 82 percent of Fortune 500 companies have these protections as company policy.

Some opponents of the bill tried to raise fears about its impact on public safety—but advocates from the New Hampshire Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence countered these fears, noting that transgender people are actually much more likely to be victims of violence and that’s why they need these protections.

Dover Police Chief Anthony Colarusso Jr., who also attended the hearing and testified in support of #TransBillNH, has long supported updates to the law for just that reason.

Many in the healthcare industry including providers spoke out about the challenges transgender people face in accessing medical treatment, and how updated nondiscrimination protections would make this easier.

Faith leaders spoke out too, including an Episcopal priest who said he was there to represent this transgender niece, Lane.

Now that the hearing has concluded, the committee will consider public testimony—including the more than 1,000 signatures in support of #TransBillNH and countless pages of written testimony that have been submitted to the public record. And then they must make a recommendation to the full House of Representatives about how they should vote on the bill. This recommendation could come down as soon as tomorrow, and no later than next Thursday, March 2nd—the date by which #TransBillNH must pass out of committee.

The committee can make one of three recommendations: “ought to pass” (an unequivocally positive recommendation), “inexpedient to legislate” or for “interim study.” Ultimately, their recommendation will have a major impact on how House lawmakers will vote on #TransBillNH.

Click here to rush a message to HHS committee members and make sure they know you support a positive recommendation to pass #TransBillNH!