CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — House Republican leadership is citing fears over men using women’s bathrooms in an effort to halt legislation that would add non-discrimination protections for transgender people in New Hampshire.
“I am going to protect my family, and if I see somebody with a 5 o’clock shadow trying to go into the ladies room where my wife or daughter is, my natural instinct is to not let that happen,” House Speaker Shawn Jasper said.
Jasper is pushing to table the bill at Wednesday’s session, which means it won’t get a debate or an up or down vote. The bill would ban discrimination in housing, employment and public accommodations based on someone’s gender identity. The same protections already exist based on sex, religion, sexual orientation and many other factors. New Hampshire is the only New England state without such protections for transgender people.
The New Hampshire effort comes as the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday declined to hear the case of a transgender teen seeking the right to use the school bathroom of his choice. Bathroom-related arguments have been used across the country in states including North Carolina and Texas during similar debates over transgender rights.
“The opposition has spread a lot of fear and lies on the bathroom issue, which is just totally unfounded,” said Linds Jakows, campaign manager for Freedom New Hampshire, which supports the bill. “Really this is about employment, housing, other public places like hospitals (or) restaurants.”
The effort to table the bill comes after hundreds of people flooded lawmakers with testimony, comments and emails both supporting and opposing the bill. Cornerstone Action, a conservative advocacy group, is helping drive the opposition, creating a petition for residents to sign and a form email they can send to representatives.
“The Republican-controlled House is on the cusp of embracing the formerly-defeated Bathroom Bill, which would put the feelings of gender confused individuals over the rights of all citizens and the serious safety and privacy concerns of New Hampshire women and girls,” says a Cornerstone provided link to the website “biologymattersnh.com,” where people can sign a petition.
Jasper and other opponents said they do not have a problem with people who have transitioned to another gender. Rather, they worry that people who are not transgender would exploit the law. He said Republican leaders would’ve been comfortable with a bill that struck the sections about public accommodations.
The bill has bipartisan sponsorship and passed out of committee with a recommendation for passage.
Tabling the bill requires a simple majority of support from the House’s 400 members. Republicans control about 225 seats; House Democrats are largely united in opposing the tabling motion. The Concord Monitor first reported the GOP plan to table the legislation. If tabled, it could be debated later in the session.
A handful of transgender New Hampshire residents testified last month that they’ve lost jobs or been harassed and mocked in public. Shana Aisenberg told lawmakers she had been fired from a job after first announcing she was transgender, causing her to live as a man for two more decades over fears of discrimination. She is now legally female.
“The impact of discrimination has really been considerable to the quality of my own life,” she told lawmakers. “I essentially — and it’s very emotional to say this — lost two decades of my life not living as who I know myself to be.”
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