Transgender rights supporters outside the State House, on March 8, 2017

Mar 8, 2017 6:47 PM

Thursday morning State House face off over transgender protections bill


CONCORD -- Thursday is now showdown day for a bill that would add protections for transgender people in New Hampshire.

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The state House of Representatives had planned to vote on the measure late Wednesday afternoon, but recessed before the bill was taken up. It’s now expected to be one of the first pieces of legislation on the agenda when the House resumes its session at 9:30am on Thursday.

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.

House GOP leadership, citing concerns of men using women’s public bathrooms, will attempt to stall the legislation by trying to table the bill. That effort, led by House Speaker Shawn Jasper, comes as lawmakers faced a deluge of testimony, comments, and emails both in support and opposition of the bill.

A simple majority vote is needed to table the bill.

The measure, which has bipartisan support, passed through committee by an overwhelming 15-2 vote. The Republicans hold a 224-174 majority in the 400 member chamber. But with some Republicans joining the Democrats, who are mostly united in opposing a move to sidetrack the bill, the vote to table is expected to be very close.

A state representative in the House GOP leadership, speaking anonymously with NH1 News in order to be more candid, said the vote on tabling the measure could go either way.

Jasper and others who hope to stall the measure say they’re not worried about those who are transgender. Instead they say their concerns focus on people who are not transgender who may exploit the law. Jasper told reporters that Republican leaders would've been comfortable with a bill that struck the sections about public accommodations.

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, some that are being challenged in the legislature. We’re just kind of monitoring it and see where it comes out."

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