Transgender students at center of new bills in New Hampshire

By HOLLY RAMER

Associated Press

Published: 03-07-2023 6:48 PM

Advocates for transgender youth in New Hampshire say four bills being considered in three legislative committees would lead to one result: harm to an already vulnerable population.

Two of the measures heard Tuesday would create a “parents’ bill of rights” to expand parental oversight over curriculum and school activities. The House killed a similar bill last year after Republican Gov. Chris Sununu promised to veto it, but conservative lawmakers in both chambers are pushing new versions this session. Sununu hasn’t taken a position on the new bills.

Sen. Sharon Carson, the sponsor of a new Senate bill, said it no longer requires schools to automatically notify parents about students’ sexuality or gender identity. But it would require school officials to answer honestly if parents ask.

“They cannot lie to a parent,” she told the Senate Education Committee. “What lesson are you teaching a child when you say that it’s OK to lie to your parents? As a parent, I find that appalling.”

Many states with Republican-controlled legislatures have enacted similar measures, fueled by parents’ frustration with schools that boiled over during the coronavirus pandemic. And it was the first bill that U.S. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy formally announced earlier this month, fulfilling a major part of the GOP’s election campaign platform last year.

State lawmakers across the country have been approving measures aimed at LGBTQ individuals, from bills targeting trans athletes and drag performers to measures limiting gender-affirming care. Republican lawmakers in more than two dozen states have pushed for bans on gender-affirming care this year, targeting what doctors and psychologists widely consider medically necessary care.

New Hampshire is considering one bill that would designate gender-affirming care for minors as “child abuse,” and another that would ban gender-affirming health care for minors; ban teaching about gender identity in public schools, and weaken the state’s ban on so-called conversion therapy.

Rep. Terry Roy, a Republican from Deerfield, said he sponsored the latter bill to generate discussion.

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“If it turns out that this gender-affirming care is the best thing for our children, then prove it, and then it will be so,” he told the House Health, Human Services and Elderly Affairs Committee. “But if it can’t be proven, then we need to put a pause on it before we do damage to our children that we cannot repair.”

But Rep. Alissandra Murray said the bill has sparked hate, not debate. Murray, a transgender nonbinary Democrat from Manchester, said they received dozens of angry messages about the bill this week. One man said such bills are necessary to protect children “from your degenerate filth” and that when white nationalists take power, LGBTQ individuals “will not be able to hold public office or be around children in any capacity.”

“Clearly, these bills enable hate, they enable violence, and they dehumanize and ostracize trans and queer people, making it even harder to exist in a world that is set against us,” Murray said.

New Hampshire lawmakers also are considering a bill sponsored by Democrats to provide protections to out-of-state patients accessing gender-affirming health care in New Hampshire. But much of the focus was on the other bills when LGBTQ advocates, including health care providers, parents, students and faith leaders, rallied outside the Statehouse early Tuesday morning.

Abi Maxwell, the mother of a 10-year-old transgender girl, told the crowd that her family moved out of their small town because her daughter was bullied by children and adults alike for her gender.

“My daughter is just a child like any other and she, like any child, needs to be affirmed and supported in her school, and she need access to the medical care recommended by doctors,” Maxwell said. “That seems so obvious, so basic to what we know about raising healthy children, yet here I am again fighting to protect these rights.”

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