|Personal stories of facing discrimination provide momentum behind passage of this historic legislation
CONCORD, N.H. —Transgender residents and advocates once again filled Representatives’ Hall in support of HB 1319, a bill to explicitly protect transgender people from discrimination in employment, housing, and public spaces. Hundreds have now testified in support of HB 1319 between the first and second hearings, while only two people at today’s hearing testified in opposition to HB 1319 in nearly three hours of testimony. The vast majority of testifiers at both hearings were supporters of HB 1319, sharing personal stories and professional expertise to explain their support for transgender freedom.
Today’s testimony was emotional and compelling, as transgender people and their family members shared powerful testimony about the fear that transgender people experience every day, the toll that discrimination takes on their lives, and the positive tangible and symbolic impact nondiscrimination protections would have for transgender Granite Staters.
This second hearing was scheduled by the House Judiciary Committee when time didn’t allow for the large number of testifiers to be heard at the first hearing two weeks ago.
The Judiciary Committee is expected to vote on HB 1319 in the coming weeks and will provide a recommendation to the full House of whether the bill should pass or not. Governor Chris Sununu told the Union Leader in January that he supports passage of the bill, reiterating strong bipartisan support for the measure. The two-part Judiciary Committee hearing provided an opportunity for a diverse group of advocates to share their support for nondiscrimination protections. HB 1319 has been endorsed by the House Libertarian Caucus, Children’s Legislative Caucus, the New Hampshire Association of Chiefs of Police, the Business and Industry Association of New Hampshire, The Women’s Foundation, and the New Hampshire Human Rights Commission.
“I have been a healthcare professional for 38 years. I am a homeowner, parent, taxpayer, an avid outdoors enthusiast, and I have lived in New Hampshire for 31 years. I am also a proud transgender woman,” said Stephanie Cawley of Center Conway. “Even though I live in and love New Hampshire, I chose to work in Maine because I was protected there from discrimination whereas in New Hampshire, I would not have that same level of protection. I want to help make my home state of New Hampshire the best possible state not just for myself, but for all transgender young people children growing up and for everyone else regardless of their race, sex, religion, sexual orientation or gender identity.”
“I’m testifying today on behalf of my transgender daughter Lia, her father, and her two sisters because they need to know their home state of New Hampshire will protect Lia’s right to live her life authentically and freely, just like her sisters,” said Christy Hegarty of Durham. “She deserves to have the same rights to access jobs and housing as her sisters. She needs to know she’ll receive the same care at our hospitals as her sisters. I hope the New Hampshire legislature will pass HB 1319 and ensure that all three of my daughters will be treated fairly and equally by the laws of our state.”
A transgender man named Mason Pasch spoke about the horrific toll that discrimination takes on the transgender community, leading to high rates of depression, anxiety, and suicide. “How many of you have begged a transgender friend not to commit suicide, whether or not you succeeded?” Mason asked the crowd, encouraging folks to raise their hands if they have had a personal experience with suicide. Looking around at all the hands raised and speaking directly to the committee members, Mason said, “This is our reality. This is why we need you to protect our community. This is why we are asking you to pass HB 1319.”
“Being transgender is not a mental illness or a choice, and I’ve had the honor of serving transgender patients Manchester Community Health Center and do my part to advocate for all transgender Granite Staters.” said Dr. Laura Fry of the Manchester Community Health Center. “Discrimination, harassment, and violence against transgender people have a serious and detrimental effect on a person’s health and wellbeing. Suicide attempts and successes are alarmingly high, especially among transgender youth. We owe it to transgender people to lighten this load, to tell them that they are our brothers and sisters, and to ensure they are free to live their lives in peace and safety like all of us in New Hampshire.”
“Over many months in 2016, I was harassed and mistreated almost daily at work by coworkers and management,” said Liam Magan, a 24-year-old transgender man from Keene. “The discrimination was so harmful to my mental health that I had to leave in order to feel safe. Two years later, I am still shaken by the harassment, mistreatment, and invalidation of my very existence I experienced by my employers. And even though my new job respects my gender identity, I am still at risk of being harassed at work – or fired – because of who I am. I support HB 1319 because it provides protection for transgender people who are discriminated on the job like I was. Everyone deserves the right to be protected from discrimination in the workplace, and to be able to live as who they are freely and without fear.”
“At the New Hampshire Women’s Foundation we take women’s safety and privacy
very seriously. Nothing in HB 1319 would change the fact that it is already illegal to threaten or assault a woman in a public bathroom,” said Sarah Mattson Dustin, Director of Policy for the New Hampshire Women’s Foundation. “Transgender people face disproportionate rates of discrimination, harassment, and violence in all areas of their lives. Transgender women are women, and like all women, we want them to be safe, to have equal opportunity, and to be treated fairly. That’s what HB 1319 offers.”
“The momentum is undeniable: now is the time to pass HB 1319 and truly make New Hampshire the Live Free or Die state,” said Linds Jakows, campaign manager for Freedom New Hampshire. “This bipartisan, common-sense legislation will ensure that transgender people are treated fairly under the law, so they have the freedom to live their lives fully – just like other Granite Staters. Our state is at its strongest when we’re all free to work hard, earn a decent living, and go about our lives without fear of discrimination.”
HB 1319 is sponsored by Representative Ed Butler (D-Hart’s Location) and cosponsored by a growing number of his fellow Representatives and Senators. 12 Republican cosponsors have formally signed on to the bill, demonstrating strong bipartisan support for this measure. This same legislation (then HB 478) passed the House Health and Human Services Committee in 2017 by an overwhelming margin of 15-2. It was then tabled by House leadership before a full floor vote took place.
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. To learn more, visit FreedomNewHampshire.org.