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Sununu makes it illegal to discriminate based on 'gender identity'

June 08. 2018 2:51PM
Gov. Chris Sununu (Union Leader file photo)

CONCORD — Gov. Chris Sununu has signed into law a bill prohibiting discrimination based on gender identity and another one creating a foster children’s bill of rights.

House Bill 1319, one of 75 bills signed by Sununu on Friday, adds transgender protections to the state’s civil rights statutes, along with age, sex, race, color, marital status, physical or mental disability, religious creed, national origin and sexual orientation.

It is now illegal to discriminate in housing, employment or public accommodations on the basis of gender identity.

“Discrimination — in any form — is unacceptable and runs contrary to New Hampshire’s Live Free or Die spirit,” said Sununu in signing the bill.

“If we really want to be the Live Free or Die State, we must ensure that New Hampshire is a place where every person, regardless of their background, has an equal and full opportunity to pursue their dreams and to make a better life for themselves and their families. This bill will ensure equal rights, equal opportunity and nondiscrimination protections in the areas of housing and employment.”

Shannon McGinley, with Cornerstone Action of New Hampshire, had urged lawmakers to consider possible unintended consequences of the bill.

“By enshrining in the law an ideology that denies the truth of an integrated human person, we would be undercutting laws that bar discrimination based on physical characteristics,” she said. “Would a shelter for abused women be forced to hire a male staff member who identifies as female?”

Organizations that supported the bill included the state Chiefs of Police Association, the Human Rights Commission, Harvard Pilgrim Health Care, Children’s Hospital at Dartmouth, the American Civil Liberties Union and LGBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders (GLAD).

The lobbying organization Freedom New Hampshire has run a robust campaign since 2016 to see the bill signed into law, and is planning a “Community Signing Celebration” from 6 to 7 p.m. on Thursday, June 14, on the State House front steps.

Also signed into law on Friday was SB 385, establishing a foster care children’s bill of rights, with protections assigned to children placed in foster care by the state. That bill is separate from HB 1562, a foster parents’ bill of rights, which is still awaiting Sununu’s signature.

“We are making progress in reforming New Hampshire’s foster care system,” said Sununu. “But there is always more we can do, and this bill will ensure that at-risk children, and their foster families, have proper protections in place.”

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