Two big setbacks for LGBT rights in Granite State

New Hampshire State house
The New Hampshire State House. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

The New Hampshire House Health, Human Services and Elderly Affairs Committee voted 13-8 this past week to hold back a bill that would have banned conversion therapy for minors.

Concerns that the measure would limit parental rights and counseling for youth “working through their sexuality” was the reason given by committee members, according to a March 30 Concord Monitor report.

“It’s another year to go without protections for people,” said Democratic Rep. Renny Cushing, who cosponsored this bill as well as the civil rights bill for transgender people, which would be denied several days later.

The conversion therapy bill “sought to bar licensed counselors from using treatments that try to change a minor’s sexual orientation or reduce romantic attractions toward people of the same gender,” reported the Monitor. “Conversion therapy techniques have in the past included administering electric shock or using shame to induce an aversion to same-sex attractions, according to the American Psychological Association.”

Republican Rep. Mark Pearson, who co-founded the faith-based New Creation Healing Center, told the Monitor that all members of the committee opposed such therapies, but the proposed legislation went “much further.”

“On numerous occasions young people have wished to explore with our counselors or senior medical personnel various sexual and romantic feelings,” Pearson said in a written statement. “Had this bill passed, such helpful discussions would have subjected our professionals to discipline by their respective state licensing boards.”

In another setback for LGBT rights in the Granite State, the state’s Republican House leadership tabled its transgender civil rights bill on March 9.

The bill would have guaranteed civil rights protections in employment, housing and public accommodations. It had cleared the Republican-held Senate and came to the floor in the House with a 15-2 bipartisan “ought-to-pass” vote House Human Services Committee.

But Speaker Shawn Jasper and Majority Leader Dick Hinch worked the Republican caucus to block the vote. “The most egregious part of the bill has to do with public accommodations,” Hinch told the New Hampshire Union Leader. “The rest of the bill is workable. In fact there are many parts of the bill that are already practiced as part of our human rights initiatives,” he claimed.

“With Sununu’s support, the bill, which was tabled by a slim margin, would be on its way to the corner office,” State Democratic Party Chair Ray Buckley told the newspaper. “His silence and apathy are a tacit endorsement of discrimination and he will have to live with the fact that he denied many transgender people the freedom that is granted through equality under the law.

Six months before leaving the state’s governorship, former governor and recently elected U.S. State Senator Maggie Hassan signed into law an executive order prohibiting discrimination against transgender people in state government, a policy that is still in place.

“I’m disappointed that yesterday the New Hampshire House voted to table legislation designed to enact additional protections for transgender citizens in our state, but I know that legislators will continue fighting for transgender rights,” Hassan told a crowded room at the Human Rights Campaign’s annual spring convention in Washington, D.C.