CONCORD, N.H. – A hotly-debated New Hampshire “bathroom bill” that would allow men and women to use restrooms and public facilities of the opposite sex depending on their “gender identity” was narrowly tabled by the state legislature on Thursday.
New Hampshire state law currently prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex and other personal characteristics. However, House Bill 478, introduced to the state’s house of representatives on January 12, would have added “gender identity” to the non-discrimination laws.
“‘Gender identity’ means a person’s gender-related identity, appearance or behavior, whether or not that gender-related identity, appearance or behavior is different from that traditionally associated with the person’s physiology or assigned sex at birth,” the bill text reads.
H.B. 478 also calls for “every individual to have equal access to places of public accommodation without discrimination because of … gender identity,” later adding, “no person shall be denied the benefit of the rights afforded by this section on account of that person’s sexual orientation.”
After easily passing the Health, Human Services and Elderly Affairs committee on February 28 by a vote of 15-2, the bill was sent to the state House of Representatives. Given its bipartisan support in committee, supporters of H.B. 478 were optimistic about the bill’s chances.
However, hundreds of concerned citizens and several vocal lawmakers urged the Republican-controlled House to vote down the bill. Lawmakers’ email inboxes were reportedly flooded with more than 800 emails from concerned citizens, most of which were in opposition to the “bathroom bill.”
In a newspaper op-ed, Republican Rep. J.R. Hoell wrote that H.B. 478 would put New Hampshire girls and women at risk.
“The proposed law gives uncontested access to those spaces to any male who claims he’s ‘really a woman,’” he opined. “If passed, it will empower male sexual predators, including voyeurs, pedophiles and even potential rapists. The political right names this the ‘bathroom bill,’ but a more appropriate name might be the Peeping Tom Protection Act … It is not that those with gender identity issues are a threat, it is that those who are a threat will exploit the special classification proposed in this new law.”
On Thursday, the New Hampshire House of Representatives voted 187-179 to table the bill, which effectively kills the legislation for the session. A subsequent motion to remove the bill from table fell short by 12 votes.
“The public is not ready,” wrote Rep. Jess Edwards, a Republican who backed the bill in committee but later changed his mind, in an email to all 400 House members on March 5. “The number of people who have written stating that this bill essentially offers their children up to sexual predators is outrunning by 5 to 1 the number of emails stating that it’s time to end the daily beatings of transgendered people. The passionate are yelling past each other with worst case scenarios. I don’t think this is an environment in which the legislature should pick a side.”
As previously reported, Texas lawmakers are currently considering a bill that would require those using restrooms and locker rooms in government buildings and public schools to use the facility that corresponds with the gender on their birth certificate. It was recently sent to the Texas Senate for a vote.