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N.H. House Judiciary Committee okays gender identity anti-discrimination bill

  • House Judiciary Committee



Monitor staff
Tuesday, February 27, 2018

The House Judiciary Committee voted in favor of a bill to add gender identity to the state’s anti-discrimination law, narrowly overturning an attempt to send the bill to a study commission. 

In a 10-8 vote, the committee approved HB 1319, which would prohibit gender discrimination in housing, employment or public accommodation, including bathrooms. 

Advocates hailed the vote as a positive first step for a bill they say would protect the transgender community in law. But the discussion at the committee offered a glimpse at some of the opposition the bill may yet face. 

Some Republican representatives said the bill was unnecessary and would not solve bullying. Rep. Michael Sylvia, R-Belmont, said creating anti-discrimination provisions for transgender people would only create more disagreement.

“I believe that we shouldn't discriminate against anybody, and by listing out specific categories of people – who are absolutely discriminated against – I don’t think that unifies the state," Sylvia said. "It seems to be instead dividing them.”

More broadly, Sylvia added, the bill is “against liberty” as it creates excessive state intervention.

“I think we just need to get along,” he says. “And bringing in the strong arm of the government is antithetical to getting along.”

Rep. Paul Berch, D-Westmoreland, said the expectation was unreasonable. “Certainly I would support everybody getting along,” he said. But he argued that despite the passage of the Fourteenth Amendment after the Civil War, progress against discrimination has traditionally required a change in the law. 

“To not do this would simply ignore the history of our country form 1868 to 1964.”

The bill now heads to the House floor. Last year, a similar bill was tabled by that body; this year, after an outreach campaign, advocates are hoping to reverse that vote. 

(Ethan DeWitt can be reached at edewitt@cmonitor.com, or on Twitter at @edewittNH.)