Another View -- Anthony Colarusso: NH should protect transgender people from discrimination
As Dover's police chief for the past 11 years, I’ve witnessed firsthand the impact of law and order in our everyday lives. As human beings, we all have a responsibility to treat others with dignity and respect. But as law enforcement, we’ve taken on an additional responsibility.
We are all called to protect and defend members of our community, and over the past two years, I have had the honor of personally advocating for the protection of the transgender community.
The New Hampshire Association of Chiefs of Police (NHACOP) believes that fair and unbiased support for every member of our society is paramount to our success and safety. This applies to people of all races, ages, ethnicities, sexual orientations, and gender identities/expressions. Unfortunately, over the years, many minority groups, including the LGBTQ community, have endured increased rates of harassment, discrimination, and assault.
Right now, under New Hampshire state law, there are no measures that explicitly protect transgender people from discrimination in the workplace, in access to housing, and in public spaces like restaurants, shops, and government buildings.
There are thousands of transgender people living and working in our communities, but despite growing public awareness of and support for them, they still face disproportionate rates of discrimination, harassment, and violence in all areas of life.
That’s wrong. And New Hampshire lawmakers can do something about this. They can enact legislation to affirm the dignity of transgender Granite Staters and ensure their freedom and opportunity for all.
We’ve updated our state’s laws over the decades to ensure people don’t face discrimination simply because of their gender, their age, their race, or their sexual orientation. Now, our lawmakers need to take action to do the same for our transgender neighbors.
I’ve seen a lot of changes during the last three decades of protecting and serving my community — first as a patrol officer, then detective, and finally as police chief for the last 11 years. From my perspective, transgender freedom is a matter of right or wrong. When women couldn’t vote, that was wrong. When people of color were segregated in their communities, that was wrong. It is wrong that transgender people continue to experience discrimination in their everyday lives.
Some people have said that this legislation will result in predatory men donning dresses, entering bathrooms, and assaulting women. As a police chief charged with protecting my community, I want to make clear that this is an absurd notion. I take public safety incredibly seriously. The good news is harassment is illegal, and that will never change. Anyone who enters a restroom to harm others will be arrested and held accountable.
Safety and privacy are important to all of us, including transgender people. What this law will do will allow all good-hearted and hardworking people, including those who are transgender, to live authentic lives and provide for their families. It’s reassuring to know that in the 18 states and more than 200 towns that have updated these protections, there has been no increase in safety concerns.
It is not a concern of mine or of the New Hampshire Association of Chiefs of Police that a bill protecting transgender folks would cause anyone any harm. In fact, the most frightening criminal concern here is the one facing transgender individuals. One in two transgender individuals will be sexually assaulted at some point in their lives. This means that transgender people are at grave risk of sexual assault. HB 1319 will make all of us safer, including transgender people, without causing any uptick in public safety concerns.
As a proud Granite Stater, I have watched our state grow and change in so many positive ways over the past 33 years. I know that our state is at its strongest when we’re all free to work hard, earn a decent living, and go about our lives without fear of discrimination.
That’s all HB 1319 is about, and that’s why I support protecting all Granite Staters from discrimination.