Heated Hearings on Efforts to Unravel Trans Rights Bill in Senate Judiciary Committee

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Devan Quinn is pictured testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday.


CONCORD – Where should transgender students go to restrooms at school, what teams can they play on, which cell block should they reside in if incarcerated and when can they have gender-affirming surgery were the subjects of two legislative hearings on Thursday.

Just whose rights are violated by current or proposed laws were the subject of the Republican-backed bills, which narrowly passed the House.

They are now before the Senate Judiciary Committee but were not voted on immediately following the hearings. 

A 2024 Gallup Poll shows that 7.6 percent of Americans identify as transgender up from 3.5 percent in 2021.

In May 2018, the Republican-controlled House and Senate passed House Bill 1319 making New Hampshire the 19th state to enact equal rights for employment, housing and public accommodation for LGBTQ individuals.

But since then, and as part of a national effort, opponents have been working to unravel, roll back or otherwise restrict some of those provisions.

Trans individuals and advocates said Thursday that they continually feel under attack in the legislature with these and other bills, making it its own form of abuse. One mother of a trans girl who left the hearing to go to the bathroom, said she worried about her in the State House, but was relieved when she returned without incident. 

Supporters said the bills are simply looking for their own rights, saying separation of bathrooms by biological sex only should not be a big deal. 

House Bill 396 https://www.gencourt.state.nh.us/bill_Status/billinfo.aspx?id=630 would allow for local control and enactment at the town and city and school level for access to school bathrooms and locker rooms, prisons and athletics based on biological sex at birth, rather than gender as it is now.

The sponsor, state Rep. Jim Kofalt, R-Wilton, called it a “compromise” from other measures which would allow for local decision making.

Opponents, including Devan Quinn, director of policy for the New Hampshire Women’s Foundation, called it a discrimination bill against all girls, including trans girls.

She said it is a carve-out for discrimination in an anti-discrimination law.

Nancy Brennan of Weare agreed saying they should rename the bill “an act permitting discrimination” and said those who vote for it should be prepared to “own it.”

Brennan said her heart is with the kids who just want to fit in and play sports and not be the subject of such legislation.

“Let them be,” she said.

Supporters called it something that would protect girls who don’t want to share bathrooms, locker rooms, and sports teams with someone from the other sex.

While no girls came to support it, some of their parents were there to testify. Several trans children did testify with one saying this might force her family to flee the state if passed.

Iris Turmelle, an eighth grader from Pembroke, said this is supposed to be her vacation week but found it “really annoying” that she had to come to the State House to protect her rights, again.

More than 35 people testified on the bill.

Also, House Bill 619 https://www.gencourt.state.nh.us/bill_Status/billinfo.aspx?id=71 was heard. It would require a person to attain the age of majority (age 18) for genital gender reassignment surgery. It passed the House Jan. 4 on a vote of 199-175 and the other bill passed 187-190.

Rep. Erica Layon, R-Derry, who sponsored the bill, said it was drastically modified from the first draft. She said there is a potential for self-harm with the surgery and many unintended consequences. 

The state says you have to wait until you are 18 to use a tanning bed, she said.

Serena Varley of Concord said gender transition cannot be undone and those who are under the age of 18 are too young for that sort of surgery, noting that the state does not allow for tattoos at that age but at least they can have those removed.

Chris Erchull, an attorney representing GLAD, legal advocates and defenders for the trans community said this bill interferes with the rights of parents and rights for medical referrals.

Members of the medical community also panned the bill noting that such medical service is not practiced now in this state but it could have a chilling effect on recruitment of physicians. And laws don’t take into consideration medical breakthroughs and changes.

Dr. Keith J. Loud of Dartmouth Health and Ava Hawkes of the NH Medical Society called it legislative interference with medicine and consent and parental rights.

Loud said doctors use scalpels where legislators use machetes.

Hawkes called it would tie the hands of physicians.

One mother said her teen who attempted to take their life last summer is undergoing “medically necessary care.”

This would block insurance coverage for this care, she said, if passed.

Linds Jakows of Dover, co-founder of 603 Equality, said as a rule most doctors do not provide such care to youths and need to go outside the state but this bill would take that right away, “so much for ‘Live Free or Die,'” the state’s motto.


This bill would allow for local control over intimate spaces like bathrooms and locker rooms, for prisoners and in athletic competition, said the sponsor, calling it an attempt to balance conflicting rights for privacy.

Joanna Brown of Manchester said there is nothing discriminatory about having high school boys use the boys’ room and currently, the “open door” policy is getting out of control noting five boys were suspended for sexually harassing one girl.

Holloway Testerman, a social worker in the Manchester Schools corrected Brown’s testimony and said that there is no “open door” policy. She said bad behavior among individuals abusing policies should not be used as a motivation for legislation but should be addressed by the schools with punishment.

Testerman said she knows some trans students who do not use a bathroom at all for nine hours because they are afraid of being harassed.

But the same could be said for others, parents said, who avoid the bathrooms as well for fear of being approached, photographed, or sexually harassed.

 Urchell said that the bill is looking to roll back the 2018 non-discrimination law by having carve-out exceptions. 

He noted NCAA and NHIAA already have policies dealing with transgender athletics. 

Prisons also have their own policies.

Sam Hawkins, public policy assistant for NAMI-NH, opposed the bill out of concern for the mental health of trans people, saying bills like this allow for more stigma and exclusion.

Amy Manzelli of Pembroke said there is no reason why she has had to come for each of the past five years to protect the “basic human rights” of her daughter, Iris.

Ann Marie Banfield supported the bill and called it more of a compromise.

“For me personally, women and girls have been historically marginalized,” she said.

After four and a half hours of testimony on the two bills, the Senate Judiciary Committee did not take action but will meet later this month to vote on their recommendations to the full Senate.

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