CONCORD, N.H. — In a 15-2 vote, the New Hampshire House Health, Human Services and Elderly Affairs Committee recommended that the full House of Representatives pass nondiscrimination protections for transgender individuals and their families. If signed into law, House Bill 478 would update the state’s laws prohibiting discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodations to explicitly include the state’s transgender residents.
“We’re pleased with today’s vote,” state Rep. Ed Butler, D-Harts Location, said. “The fact that Republicans and Democrats came together to vote in overwhelming favor of this measure shows individual freedom and opportunity are values that all we Granite Staters can agree upon.”
The committee’s decision came only one day after they heard oral testimony from nearly 50 residents on the importance of the measure, outnumbering opposition of the bill by 7-1. Freedom New Hampshire also directed more than 1,200 constituent contacts to committee members.
“Lawmakers were touched by the broad coalition of Republicans and Democrats, business and faith leaders, health professionals, educators, public safety officials, advocates for victims of sexual and domestic violence, members of the transgender community and allies, who came together in support of House Bill 478,” Linds Jakows, campaign manager of Freedom New Hampshire, said.
Committee members were especially moved by the number of personal stories of discrimination that transgender residents and their family members recounted.
Kenzo Morris of Gilmanton described in emotional testimony how, a few years ago, he was denied a driver’s license by the state’s Dept. of Motor Vehicles — despite fulfilling all legal requirements — and was publicly ridiculed by DMV staff because he is transgender.
“Laws matter, and, like it or not, they do affect the general public opinion and determine how people act. When I am fully protected against discrimination in public places, then everyone will see that it is not okay to treat me badly just because they don’t like me or don’t understand me,” Morris told committee members.
Lawmakers also heard from several organizations in favor the bill, including the Business and Industry Association of N.H., the N.H. Association of Chiefs of Police, the New Hampshire Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence, and more.
“Our coalition is strong because New Hampshire is ready. And we are prepared to do everything we can to ensure everyone in New Hampshire gets a fair shot under state law, including transgender residents, visitors and their families,” Jakows added.
The measure now goes to the full House for further debate. If it passes the House, it will advance to another committee in the Senate.
Freedom New Hampshire is a nonpartisan coalition working to educate people about what it means to be transgender, the unique hardships that transgender people face and to grow support for fair and equal treatment of transgender Granite Staters under the law.