The New Hampshire state legislature has passed a bill banning anti-transgender discrimination - a rare move for a majority Republican body - and the state's Republican governor is expected to sign it into law.
The state Senate passed the measure, House Bill 1339, Wednesday by a vote of 14-10, with four Republicans joining the chamber's 10 Democrats in support, the New Hampshire Union Leader reports. The state House, which also has a Republican majority, approved the bill last month in a bipartisan vote of 195-129. The legislation covers employment, housing, and public accommodations.
"I am supported by the antidiscrimination passed into law many years ago," said Republican Sen. Dan Innis, who is gay, during debate on the bill, according to the Union Leader. "Am I better than the transgender people here? No, I am not, absolutely not. So let's give them the same protections I enjoy."
Some opponents of the bill brought up the familiar argument that the public accommodations provision would enable trans people to harass women and girls in restrooms or locker rooms. "I believe that other people have an interest here, a privacy right that this bill is going to infringe on -- the privacy of my three young daughters in their locker room, my wife in her gym," said Republican Sen. William Gannon, according to the paper. But others pointed out that trans people do not generally enter these spaces with bad intent, and that assault and harassment remain illegal. A proposal to send the measure to a study committee and put off voting until next year failed by one vote.
Gov. Chris Sununu is expected to sign the bill in the next few weeks. Thirty days from when he signs it, the bill will become law, making New Hampshire the 19th state to ban discrimination based on gender identity, and the final New England state to do so.
Several activists welcomed the news. "This law will go a long way to affirm the dignity of transgender people and allow them to truly live free," said Linds Jakows, campaign manager for Freedom New Hampshire. "I want to especially thank my fellow transgender Granite Staters for their bravery and courage over the last few years -- this victory would not have been possible without the voices of transgender people who have been telling their stories and educating lawmakers about the urgent need to make sure all Granite Staters are fully protected under the law."
Human Rights Campaign national field director Marty Rouse issued this statement: "No person should be fired, evicted, or denied service just because of who they are, and it is far beyond time that New Hampshire's nondiscrimination protections include transgender people. Fair-minded people across the Granite State support these protections and recognize the importance of making New Hampshire an inclusive and welcoming state for all. Inclusive nondiscrimination protections are now one step closer to becoming law, and we urge Governor Sununu to continue this momentum by signing HB 1319."
Added Zeke Stokes, vice president of programs at GLAAD: "New Hampshire's leaders are demonstrating that nondiscrimination protection is not -- and should never be -- a partisan issue. From Alaska to New Hampshire Republicans and Democrats are coming together to support all people. Gov. Sununu has said he is inclined to sign the measure, and it's critical that he do so in order to ensure that everyone in New Hampshire has access to the same freedoms and protections under law."