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NH House scraps bills affecting LGBTQ+ students; The fight goes to the Senate

CONCORD — The New Hampshire House of Representatives on Thursday rejected two bills that opponents said would be harmful to transgender youth.

Senate Bill 341, sponsored by Sen. Timothy Lang, R-Sanbornton, would have required teachers to respond honestly to written questions from parents. Opponents said it could “out” students as LGBTQ+ before they were ready.

In the House of Representatives, the resolution was postponed indefinitely by a vote of 185 to 176.

Rep. Hope Damon, D-Croydon, said the New Hampshire Department of Education has said the bill's language is unclear, subjective and difficult to enforce. Additionally, she said the Office of the Child Advocate has stated that the bill “endangers the health, safety and inherent rights of residents of the Granite State.”

“Parents and educators routinely work together and advocate for the well-being of students,” Damon told a parliamentary inquiry on Thursday in support of an indefinite postponement. “The unnecessary bill endangers vulnerable youth while violating their constitutional right to privacy.”

Rep. Jason Osborne, R-Auburn, spoke against the proposal, saying the bill was imperative to “restore and protect the fundamental rights of parents.”

More: Why are there so many gender identity bills in New Hampshire? Experts weigh in

The House later voted against SB 375, which would ban transgender girls from competing on school sports teams that match their gender identity. With a vote of 200 to 154, they sent it to the interim study. A motion to refer (195-162) and to reconsider (233-118) both failed.

The bill was originally on the consent calendar after a House committee recommended sending it for interim consideration, but it was withdrawn to be debated on the floor.

Rep. Alexis Simpson, D-Exeter, spoke in favor of subjecting the measure to an interim study.

“This body's position has already been transmitted to the Senate,” Simpson said, referring to HB 1205, a nearly identical bill passed by the House in March. “To my colleagues who care about Title IX, equal protection and justice, this bill violates all three.”

Similar to SB 341, the failure of this bill does not mean the end of transgender athlete legislation. HB 1205 was heard by the Senate on Tuesday and will be heard in the Senate at an as-yet-undetermined date.

Pro-LGBTQ advocates like 603 Equality and the ACLU of New Hampshire welcomed the results of the bills in the House but stressed that their fight continues.

“Today, the NH House of Representatives reaffirmed that transgender girls are girls and should be welcomed into spaces with other girls, including sports teams,” Linds Jakows, co-founder of 603 Equality, wrote in a statement. “Similarly, they once again rejected an onerous and excessive requirement that teachers disclose the gender and/or sexual orientation of their students to their parents before they are ready, with no exceptions for students at risk of abuse or neglect. “But we’re not out of the woods yet. Similar bills like HB 1205 and HB 1312 will be introduced in the Senate in the next few weeks. LGBTQ Granite Staters will be more easily reassured if the Senate rejects these bills.”

Attendance could be a reason these bills failed. Eleven Republican Party representatives and seven Democrats were absent from the House session on Thursday. Republicans hold a majority over Democrats in the House of Representatives with just six members, meaning who shows up to vote can have a big impact on what happens to a bill.

Anna Harden

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