BREAKING: New Hampshire Governor Signs Transgender Nondiscrimination Protections Into Law!

By Shane Stahl • June 8, 2018 • 1:14 pm

Moments ago, Republican Governor Chris Sununu made good on a promise to support New Hampshire’s transgender community by signing legislation that enacts comprehensive nondiscrimination protections in housing, employment, and public accommodations for transgender people into law. The bill, also known as #TransBillNH, updates the state’s existing civil rights law to include transgender people. 

The law goes into effect on July 8th, thirty days after the Governor’s signature. In addition to #TransBillNH, Sununu also signed a bill banning so called “conversion therapy”, which has been debunked by the American Psychological Association.    

Freedom New Hampshire, the campaign to secure these protections, began working in earnest in late 2015 to begin formulating a coalition supportive of passing transgender-inclusive legislation. Freedom for All Americans has been proud to be a leading and founding member of Freedom New Hampshire.

Masen Davis, CEO of Freedom for All Americans, said today:

“LGBTQ equality is not a partisan issue, but a human issue. The vast majority of Americans agree that LGBTQ people should be protected from discrimination, and I’m encouraged to see a growing number of conservative leaders join us in supporting freedom for all – especially after meeting their transgender neighbors and learning about the devastating impact of discrimination against LGBTQ people from all walks of life. New Hampshire residents have much to be proud of as they join their New England neighbors in protecting LGBTQ residents from discrimination.”

Dan Pontoh, community organizer for Freedom New Hampshire, said today:

“Today, New Hampshire lived up to its Live Free or Die motto. We are elated that elected leaders recognized the need for this law and worked together in a bipartisan effort to get it passed. We created a strong coalition of business leaders, law enforcement, elected officials, faith leaders, human rights advocates, and transgender people and their families, who were able to move the debate beyond fear to a place of understanding. We want to especially acknowledge the courage of the transgender community who shared their stories and helped educate lawmakers and their neighbors that every person deserves to be treated fairly and equally under the law.”

Freedom New Hampshire is the nonpartisan coalition of businesses large and small, law enforcement, anti-violence advocates, faith leaders, and transgender residents and their families working to introduce Granite Staters to their transgender neighbors and to make the case for equal opportunity and freedom from discrimination. The members of the nonpartisan Freedom New Hampshire coalition include Freedom for All Americans, GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders (GLAD), the American Civil Liberties Union of New Hampshire (ACLU-NH), Human Rights Campaign, Transgender New Hampshire, and Rights and Democracy New Hampshire.

Check out the history of the passage of #TransBillNH!

2017 Legislative Session: After Initial Success, A Halt in the House

In November 2016, Rep. Ed Butler of Hart’s Location announced that he would introduce a bill to add nondiscrimination protections for transgender people to consideration for the upcoming legislative session. A previous bill had made its way through the House of Representatives in 2009, only to be held up and eventually killed in the Senate.

The bill, then known as HB 478, was formally introduced in January 2017. Assigned to the House Health and Human Services Committee, over three hours of testimony was heard in a packed hearing; ultimately, the committee recommended the bill ‘Ought to Pass,’ moving it to the floor of the House for a vote on March 9.

Upon being brought to the floor, lawmakers voted to table the bill by a vote of 187-179, largely spurred on by then-Speaker Shawn Jasper. With the bill defeated in the House, Freedom New Hampshire prepared to reignite efforts to bring a bill to the floor for the next legislative session.

Heading into 2018: New Strategies Help Build Momentum

Following the unsuccessful efforts during the 2017 session, campaign manager Linds Jakows began to collaborate with existing Freedom New Hampshire coalition partners to build new strategies and tactics to create even stronger momentum heading into the next session.

In a profile featured on Freedom For All Americans, they spoke about the enormous task that befell the campaign. The New Hampshire House of Representatives is made up of over 400 people, so getting each of them to understand the intricacies of the bill was an incredible challenge. However, the campaign redoubled their efforts to take a new approach: they decided to focus on holding events in districts where votes needed to be picked up — events including town halls, house parties, and innovative community meetings known as “Ask a Trans Person Anything.” As lawmakers met transgender people and had conversations with them, the campaign realized it was more difficult for those lawmakers to vote against protecting transgender people.

Additionally, the campaign began to amplify the voices of transgender Granite Staters, as well as allies and supporters. Through continued story sharing, the benefits of comprehensive nondiscrimination legislation began to better resonate with lawmakers, as well as Granite Staters as a whole, encouraging them to contact their legislators to show support for the issue. All these efforts would come to a head as a new bill, HB 1319, was introduced toward the end of 2017 for the new legislative session.

2018: Steady Wins the Race as Historic Victory Achieved

In an early indicator of gubernatorial support of HB 1319, Republican Governor Chris Sununu formed a task force in December of 2017 specifically charged with investigating instances of discrimination, including against transgender people. Additionally, Attorney General Gordon MacDonald also announced the creation of a Civil Rights Unit within the NH Department of Justice; newly appointed head of the Unit, Elizabeth Leahy, included remarks about anti-transgender discrimination and violence in her statement.

On December 15, HB 1319 was officially filed in the House for the 2018 legislative session with 14 cosponsors, including 12 Republican legislators. In an early burst of momentum, the influential bipartisan Children’s Caucus announced their endorsement of the bill. This time assigned to the House Judiciary Committee, the bill was scheduled for a hearing on January 31.

In the lead up to the hearing, the bill gained the support of a broad coalition of organizations, including The New Hampshire Association of Chiefs of Police, The NH Business and Industry Association, the House Libertarian Caucus, the Children’s Behavioral Health Collaborative, the New Hampshire Women’s Foundation, and the New Hampshire Human Rights Commission.

The committee heard over four hours of testimony from dozens of Granite Staters, including lawmakers themselves, as well as a large contingency of transgender people. Due to the overwhelming amount of people wishing to speak, the committee decided to adjourn and continue testimony on a second day. Following a second day of testimony, the committee voted the bill ‘Ought to Pass,’ moving it to the floor of the House for a crucial vote.

On March 7, the bill was introduced in the House during a marathon session intended to pass as many bills as possible before the body adjourned. When HB 1319 arose, several amendments were introduced in an attempt to limit the bill’s scope and ability. Fortunately, those were voted down, and in the final vote, the bill was passed by a vote of 195-129

Following the successful House vote, the bill was passed on to the Senate Judiciary Committee for consideration. Because New Hampshire is a “no kill” state, regardless of the committee’s decision, the bill would still move to the Senate floor for a full vote. On April 16, the committee heard 6 hours of testimony, most of it concerning instances of discrimination against transgender people. On April 24, by a 3-2 vote, the committee recommended the bill be sent to an interim study committee for further vetting. Regardless of the committee’s decision, the bill was scheduled to be heard on May 2 or May 3 during the final days of session.

The bill came up in the Senate on May 2. The recommendation of the Senate committee was voted down, and by a 14-10 vote, HB 1319 was voted ‘Ought to Pass.’

The Path Ahead: Building Momentum for LGBTQ Protections Nationwide

With this new law in place, New Hampshire becomes the 19th state in the country to offer comprehensive nondiscrimination protections for all LGBTQ people – and the last state in New England to secure full protections. The victory fuels momentum for future wins and steps forward in states across the country.

Freedom for All Americans congratulates Freedom New Hampshire on their historic victory, and for all their hard fought efforts to ensure that transgender Granite Staters are protected from discrimination equally under the law. Freedom for All Americans is proud to have served as a leading and founding member of the Freedom New Hampshire campaign.

Learn more about the path to victory in New Hampshire here.

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