with the note, “The second line in this article says it all: non-discrimination.”
Transgender rights in ‘bathroom bill’
By TOM FAHEY
State House Bureau Chief
March 15, 2009
REPUBLICANS call it the “bathroom bill.”
Democrats call it a non-discrimination bill.
In either case, House Bill 415 is stirring up interest, e-mails and phone calls from as far away as Boston, according to its sponsor, Rep. Ed Butler.
Butler filed the bill to close what he sees as a loophole in state law that allows discrimination against transsexuals. The bill adds to a host of laws—which bar discrimination on the basis of sex, age, race, creed, color, sexual orientation or religion—the words “gender identity” or “gender expression.”
Butler argues, “Our non-discrimination laws cover almost every person in this state, but people who are transgendered and are discriminated against in housing and employment are not protected. This is a bill to correct that.”
Critics say that because the bill includes laws on public accommodations, it will open bathrooms to use by either sex. Actually, current law already bars discrimination in the use of public accommodations on the basis of gender or sexual orientation.
State Republican Party chairman John H. Sununu said the bill is an example of extreme liberalism among Democrats.
He called it “part of their quiet agenda for changing New Hampshire. I will admit, I’ve been wrong in suggesting they wanted to make us a clone of Massachusetts. It now appears they want to make us a clone of San Francisco.”
Sununu said, “I cannot believe that Gov. (John) Lynch will let this garbage come to his desk.” Lynch press secretary Colin Manning said the governor hasn’t been tracking the bill.
“We’re focused on the budget and on getting federal stimulus money where it needs to go,” he said.
Democratic party chair Ray Buckley came to Lynch’s defense.
“It is unfortunate that Sununu would rather try to score partisan points than have a serious discussion about issues. New Hampshire Republicans deserve better than that,” he said in a statement.
A House Judiciary subcommittee voted last week to recommend passage of HB 415 and a gay marriage bill.
Members of the House Judiciary Committee have been getting e-mails urging them to vote against the “bathroom bill.” Butler said he was called by a Boston talk radio show last week.
Rep. David Nixon, a former Senate president, said he voted in subcommittee to move the bill ahead for discussion by the full committee.
Rep. Joseph Hagan said he voted against it as a conservative who feels gender issues, “are one small facet of a much broader psychiatric illness.” He also questions the state’s reliance on a Human Rights Commission, saying it’s really a government tribunal that denies people their day in court.
He said that if transsexuals get more rights, others will lose them.
As an example, Hagan said a private school could not fire a school bus driver whose sexual issues were confusing children.
“Should you be able to use the Human Rights Commission to beat up Trinity High or any other private school?” he asked.
Butler said the boiling down of his bill to a debate on bathrooms reminds him of debates over the Equal Rights Amendments.
“People who opposed it said we’d have unisex bathrooms and it would be a danger to citizens,” he said.
Butler says transsexuals should not be left without rights.
“There are many instances of people who are transgendered who’ve been hurt, abused, lost jobs, lost housing and have had no recourse,” he said.
Judiciary takes up the bill for a full committee vote in executive session on Tuesday morning.
The gay marriage bill is getting less attention, so far, but is also up for committee discussion on Tuesday. Rep. Jim Splaine, sponsor of the bill, said he’s encouraged.
A long list of other divisive issues also is slated for committee vote at Judiciary Tuesday, including parental notification, changes to the civil unions law, restrictions on eminent domain and an assisted suicide bill.