The state House of Representatives votes to table a transgender protections bill, on March 9, 2017

Mar 9, 2017 5:50 PM

Citing public bathroom concerns, Statehouse votes twice to sidetrack transgender protections bill


CONCORD -- A bill that would add protections for transgender people in New Hampshire suffered a serious setback on Thursday, when it was tabled by the state House of Representatives.

The measure would ban discrimination in housing, employment and public accommodations based on someone's gender identity. The same protections already exist based on sex, religion, and many other factors. New Hampshire is the only state in New England without such protections for transgender people.

By a 187-179 vote, the bill was tabled. That prevented any further debate on the measure, formally known as HB478.

A simple majority vote later in the day could have resuscitated the legislation.

That vote did take place some six hours after the original vote, and it failed. By a 180-168 margin, lawmakers voted to keep the bill on the table.

Going forward, any attempt to revive and advance the bill by taking off the table would require a two-thirds majority.

The House GOP leadership, led by Speaker Shawn Jasper, was behind the tabling of the bill. They cited concerns of men using women’s public bathrooms. Their move came as lawmakers in recent days faced a deluge of testimony, comments, and emails both in support and opposition of the bill

“The most egregious part of the bill is sections 8 and 9, that has to do with public accommodations. The rest of the bill is workable,” House Majority Leader Dick Hinch told reporters following the vote.

“This is the bathroom scenario,” he added.

The Republican from Merrimack said he has “an amendment that strips out eight and nine but leaves everything else intact.”

If the bill is every taken off the table, Hinch said he'll immediately introduce his amendment.

Hinch mentioned a case of a male using a female restroom at the Target in Bedford, when asked about any specific examples the leadership could cite. But he said he wasn’t clear on just what happened.

But Hinch said “as husbands and fathers we have very grave concerns about making sure that our wives and daughters are adequately protected. We shouldn’t also forget that when we have young teenagers to decides, as a prank or whatever, to go into the ladies shower and the hormones are raging, that’s real world, and they would be able to get away with that because ‘I felt like a woman today’.”

He also pointed out that the majority of the emails that he received regarding the measure “were to kill the bill.”

House Democratic Leader Steve Shurtleff told reporters the bill is “right for New Hampshire.”

“I think this brings protection to a class that needs protection. I think it’s good legislation,” the Democrat from Penacook added. “A lot of the arguments we’re hearing now against this bill, we’ve heard before against civil unions, we heard them on same-sex marriage. It’s just the recycling of the old arguments.”

GOP leader warns it’s ‘absolutely not a done deal’

Just one Democrat, Rep. Thomas Bucco of Conway, voted to table the bill. Sixteen Republicans and Libertarian Caley Dyer of Pelham voted against tabling the measure.

Hinch said the GOP leadership “used every resource that we had available to us” to sway undecided Republican representatives.

Speaking with reporters after the first vote, Hinch warned that it’s “absolutely not a done deal. Everybody who’s here needs to stay here, because this is deadline day. With deadline day come the ability to remove it from the table with a simple majority and pass it with a simple majority as well.”

Those who are here today need to stay here today,” Hinch added.

And he joked that “I ordered a bunch of seat belts for Republicans.”

Asked if supporters of the measure were trying to change some minds throughout the days, Shurtleff said “that’s a possibility.”

“We’ll see what the day brings,” he added.

Sununu staying neutral on bill

Asked by reporters Wednesday afternoon where he stood on the bill, Gov. Chris Sununu said "we’ve looked at it and I’m kind of monitoring what goes on over in the legislature but beyond that I don’t really have a direct opinion on it."

New Hampshire's first Republican governor in a dozen years said that "making sure that the state takes discrimination and those issues very seriously is of utmost concern. I mean that’s one of the things that always has to be a priority both in the public and private sector."

As for the opposition to the measure by House GOP leadership, Sununu said "there’s a lot of facets to this bill, there’s a lot of different pieces, some that have a lot of support."

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