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Bill adds gender identity to anti-discrimination protections

  • Kenzo Morris and his wife, Jen, watch the couple’s 5-year-old twins, Phoenix and Kahlia, before a hearing on a transgender nondiscrimination bill before the House Health, Human Services and Elderly Affairs committee Tuesday. Morris, who began transitioning four years ago, said he and his wife have talked to their daughters about what it means to be transgender and wanted the girls to see democracy in action. Morris planned to speak about his experience at the Division of Motor Vehicles, where, he said, the clerks laughed at his request to change his gender on his driver’s license. Elodie Reed

  • Hart’s Location Democratic Rep. Ed Butler speaks to the House Health, Human Services and Elderly Affairs Committee on Tuesday in favor of the bill he sponsored to prevent discrimination towards transgender New Hampshire residents. Elodie Reed

  • The Rev. Jay MacLeod of St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church in New London sits among the crowd during Tuesday’s hearing on a transgender nondiscrimination bill before the House Health, Human Affairs and Elderly Affairs Committee. Elodie Reed

  • The room for Tuesday’s hearing on a transgender nondiscrimination bill overflowed with people, forcing some to listen from the hallway. Elodie Reed

  • Somersworth resident Gerri Cannon sits in the crowd at Tuesday’s hearing on House Bill 478, which proposes a state transgender nondiscrimination law. Cannon has lived the last 11 years of her life as a transgender woman, and spoke in favor of the law to prevent discrimination in the workplace – which she said she experienced – as well as to make New Hampshire a more welcoming state for tourists and regular business. Elodie Reed

  • Chloe LaCasse, right, listens during a public hearing on a bill that would bar discrimination based on gender identity, Tuesday, Feb. 21, 2017, in Concord, N.H. Morris, a stay-at-home father, came out as transgender four years ago. LaCasse, 45, came out as a transgender woman last summer. (AP Photo/Kathleen Ronayne) Kathleen Ronayne

  • Vivian Murphy, left, and Gerri Cannon, second from left, listen during a public hearing on a bill that would bar discrimination based on gender identity, Tuesday, Feb. 21, 2017, in Concord, N.H. Cannon testified in favor of the bill, recounting her experiences being harassed as restaurants and losing jobs over her gender identity. (AP Photo/Kathleen Ronayne) Kathleen Ronayne

  • Kenzo Morris, right, listens during a public hearing on a bill that would bar discrimination based on gender identity, Tuesday, Feb. 21, 2017, in Concord, N.H. Morris, a stay-at-home father, came out as transgender four years ago. Morris testified that he was mocked when he went to change the gender identity on his driver's license. (AP Photo/Kathleen Ronayne) Kathleen Ronayne



Associated Press
Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Kenzo Morris remembers being mocked when he went to change the gender on his driver’s license. Shana Aisenberg recalls losing a job teaching music after she came out as transgender. Gerri Cannon says she’s been harassed in restaurants just for the way she looks.

These are the stories House lawmakers heard Tuesday as they weighed a bill to prevent discrimination against transgender people. If passed, New Hampshire would join about 20 states that bar discrimination based on gender identity in housing, employment and public accommodations such as restaurants. It has bipartisan sponsorship.

“I love this state, but I always am aware that someone may take an issue with who I am and cause me harm and take issue and just berate me,” Cannon told the committee.

The state already bars discrimination based on age, sex, race, creed, color, marital and familial state, national origin, sexual orientation and physical or mental disability. Even though gender identity isn’t included, the state’s Commission for Human Rights has been taking on transgender discrimination cases since 1988, chairman Paul Phillips said.

Adding gender identity to the law would ensure everyone is protected, he said. Police chiefs, doctors, some religious leaders and the state’s Business and Industry Association also came to support the bill.

But opponents, including residents, conservative activists and a marriage and family therapist, warned against the bill, saying it could have unintended consequences, such as men improperly using women’s restrooms and assaulting people. The same argument has been used to defend the so-called “bathroom bill,” that sparked controversy in North Carolina.

“I would be too frightened to use a public bathroom if I knew there could be a man there,” resident Beth Scare said.

David Pickup, a therapist from Texas and representative of the American College of Pediatricians, suggested the bill attempts to “redefine what it means to be human.” His group has warned against “gender ideology.”

But supporters said those fears are misplaced, and noted the bill lays out criteria for how people can prove their gender identity, including disclosing their medical history or evidence that the gender they identify with is a core and consistent part of their identity.

“These are nothing more than myths,” Linds Jakows, campaign manager for Freedom New Hampshire, said about bathroom concerns.

Morris, who testified he was harassed by employees at the Division of Motor Vehicles, said he has faced discrimination his entire life because he grew up as the child of an interracial couple.

“Just being yourself shouldn’t give people the right to harass you or treat you poorly,” he said.

He told committee members his parents were denied housing in the 1980s because they were an interracial couple.

“I am shamed, as a lifelong New Hampshire native, to think that over 30 years later this is still being allowed to happen to different groups of people,” he said.