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Transgender Rights Bill Draws a Crowd at the N.H. Statehouse

Jason Moon for NHPR

A public hearing was held Wednesday for a bipartisan bill that would create legal protections for transgender people.

The hearing drew such a crowd that it had to be moved to Representatives Hall. The large, stately room that seats 400 was mostly full.

House Bill 1319 would add gender identity to the state’s existing anti-discrimination laws.

The bill’s prime sponsor, Democratic state Rep. Edward Butler, said it was past time for New Hampshire to join other states in adding these protections.

Credit Jason Moon for NHPR
Supporters of the proposal held a rally outside before the hearing.

“As a gay man I understand how important this legislation will be to provide needed protections. But also to say to our transgender citizens by the legislative body of this state in a very unambiguous way: you deserve to be seen, recognized, protected, and supported for who you are.”

But there were plenty in the hall who argued against the measure, including Rep. Al Baldasaro, a Republican from Londonderry.

“Does the bill open up the door that my granddaughters –now, you know, if you look like a girl that’s fine. But when you get in the shower and the locker room and you’re getting changed – are my granddaughters going to be in there with transgender that have a package? That’ll be in the showers or changing room, does this bill open that door?”

Concerns about bathrooms and locker rooms are a familiar line of argument in this debate.

But it’s a fear that Anthony Colarusso says is unfounded. He is Dover chief of police and a member of the New Hampshire Chiefs of Police Association, which supports the bill.

“When I was a little boy, my father used to tell me stories. Some were good, some were scary. And he told me the story about the boogeyman. That somebody would use this bill, specifically, to say ‘oh now I have license to go into a bathroom and dress up as a woman or whatever and molest somebody’ – that’s the boogeyman.”

Other supporters include the New Hampshire Business and Industry Association, and several faith leaders.

Just a few days ago, Governor Chris Sununu signaled he was receptive to the measure as well.

The bill is currently before the House Judiciary Committee, which will make its recommendation on the bill by March.

Jason Moon is a senior reporter and producer on the Document team. He has created longform narrative podcast series on topics ranging from unsolved murders, to presidential elections, to secret lists of police officers.

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