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Advocates urge Sununu to veto bills restricting trans rights

A crowd gathers at the N.H. State House to oppose several bills dealing with the rights of LGBTQ+ youth, Tuesday, March 7, 2023. Zoey Knox photo / NHPR
Zoey Knox
A crowd gathers at the N.H. State House to oppose several bills dealing with the rights of LGBTQ+ youth in March 2023.

LGBTQ rights groups are urging Gov. Chris Sununu to veto a set of bills that would limit the rights of transgender Granite Staters, particularly trans youth.

In recent weeks, Republican majorities in New Hampshire’s Legislature have passed measures that would prevent trans girls from competing in girls’ sports in middle and high school, prohibit some gender-affirming surgeries for people under 18 and allow public and private facilities to bar trans people from bathrooms that align with their gender identity.

Sununu, a Republican, has not yet said whether he will sign those bills, and his office did not respond to a request for comment. In March, he said he generally agreed with the idea behind the bill limiting participation in girls’ sports, but did not commit to signing it.

“I share a lot of the concerns and the arguments in terms of fairness, and in some sports in terms of safety,” Sununu told reporters at the time, adding that he’d have to see “what might get added onto the bill and what the bill finally looks like.”

Liz Canada, the advocacy director of the Planned Parenthood New Hampshire Action Fund, noted that Sununu signed an anti-discrimination law in 2018 that included gender identity.

One of the bills now headed to his desk would create exceptions to that law, allowing public and private entities to bar trans people from the bathrooms and locker rooms that correspond with their gender identity, by separating them according to “biological sex.”

“He's done the right thing in the past,” Canada said. “In 2018, he signed the anti-discrimination law that protected transgender individuals. And we want him to do the same thing now.”

Linds Jakows, who leads the advocacy group 603 Equality, said all of these bills would be a “huge step backwards” for transgender rights in New Hampshire.

“Oftentimes, the New Hampshire government values freedom for only a very narrow set of people, and not all people,” Jakows said. “And so we need to or make it clear that if New Hampshire really values freedom, that includes transgender people, transgender young people and the LGBTQ community more broadly.”

603 Equality and other organizations have been encouraging people to contact the governor about how these laws could impact them or their loved ones. Jakows said some have organized parties to coordinate handwritten letters, or distributed letter-writing kits.

“So he can expect a flood of correspondence via phone, email and letters,” they said.

Jakows said those efforts could continue into June, with outreach at local Pride events. Advocates are also organizing a June 2 event in front of the State House to celebrate the LGBTQ+ community, along with family members and other supporters.

Part of a wave of anti-LGBTQ policies

In recent years, Republican lawmakers around the country have introduced a wave of legislation targeting the rights of LGBTQ+ youth. At least 21 states have passed laws restricting bathroom access, sports participation or gender transition care for minors, according to the Trevor Project, a suicide-prevention organization for LGBTQ+ young people.

Supporters of such bills in New Hampshire have said they want to preserve fair competition in girls’ sports, and protect children from rushing into irreversible medical treatments.

Advocates for LGBTQ rights call those fears unfounded and say the bills discriminate against trans kids, by denying them the ability to participate equally in school sports or make decisions about medical care with their parents and doctors.

LGBTQ+ rights advocates are also calling on Sununu to veto a bill requiring schools to give parents two weeks’ notice before any instruction on “sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, or gender expression.”

Heidi Carrington Heath, the executive director of Seacoast Outright, a support and advocacy organization focused on LGBTQ+ youth, said young people have been gathering at its office to write letters to the governor.

She said it’s taken a toll on young people to feel like they need to go before lawmakers to justify their existence. Meanwhile, she knows of families who are thinking about whether they’ll need to move out of New Hampshire if these bills pass.

“Our kids are doing all the things you expect middle and high school kids to do. They're going to school, they're playing sports, they're doing theater. They're hanging out with their friends. They're trying to just be kids,” she said. “And it's really hard to do that when your state legislature is coming after you.”

Paul Cuno-Booth covers health and equity for NHPR. He previously worked as a reporter and editor for The Keene Sentinel, where he wrote about police accountability, local government and a range of other topics. He can be reached at
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