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New Hampshire Senate passes GOP-backed parents' rights bill

Advocates for transgender youth rally outside the New Hampshire Statehouse, in Concord, N.H., Tuesday, March 7, 2023. House and Senate committees are holding public hearings on four bills opponents say would harm the health the health and safety of transgender youth. (AP Photo/Holly Ramer)
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AP
Advocates for transgender youth rally outside the New Hampshire Statehouse, in Concord, N.H., Tuesday, March 7, 2023. House and Senate committees are holding public hearings on four bills opponents say would harm the health the health and safety of transgender youth. (AP Photo/Holly Ramer)

A "parents' bill of rights" that critics say is designed to target transgender youth passed New Hampshire's Republican-led Senate on Thursday.

Much of the debate among lawmakers focused on provisions to require school officials, when asked by parents, to disclose that a child is using a different name or being referred to as being a different gender.

Supporters said the bill would strengthen family relationships, while opponents argued it violates the constitutional right to privacy and the state's anti-discrimination laws.

Many states with Republican-controlled legislatures have enacted similar measures, fueled by some parents' frustration with schools that boiled over during the coronavirus pandemic. And in the U.S. House, a parents' rights bill was the first legislation that House Speaker Kevin McCarthy formally announced — fulfilling a major part of last year's GOP campaign platform.

New Hampshire Sen. Donovan Fenton, a Democrat from Keene, said the bill approved Thursday "will further drive the transphobic and homophobic narrative that has begun to infiltrate our state from national interest groups."

"The attacks and targeting of the LGBTQ+ community has increased across the country, and New Hampshire is no exception to that," he said.

The state Senate bill was approved 14-10 along party lines and now goes to the 400-member House, which has a razor-thin Republican majority.

"We must value and support the loving relationships that exist in our New Hampshire families," said Sen. Denise Ricciardi, a Bedford Republican. "Senate Bill 272 stands up for truth, for love, for family."

Bradford Republican Sen. Dan Innis, who is gay, said if a student is "visibly transitioning at school or is visibly gay," parents should hear that from teachers, not gossipy neighbors.

"I think this bill will create a situation where it's less likely that a student will be outed by his or her peers, and more likely that it will happen in a way that supports that child," he said. "I can tell you at age 13, I, too, was very confused, and parental support would have been very helpful."

But Democrats pushed back, questioning who determines what is "visibly gay."

"That is not the job of the teacher to determine for the individual. That's information for the individual to reveal or not reveal, when they are ready and when they are comfortable," said Sen. Becky Whitley, a Hopkinton Democrat. "Who gets to decide when someone is moving towards a different gender based on clothes, or just likes pink?"

The New Hampshire House, which is considering its own parental rights legislation, killed a similar bill last year after Republican Gov. Chris Sununu promised to veto it. He hasn't taken a position on the new bills.

The House had been set to vote Thursday on a bill that would require multi-stall bathrooms and locker rooms in public K-12 schools to be same-sex, but it was tabled over concerns about building codes.

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