A resolution passed by the UNH Student Senate on Sunday, Oct. 9 urges the state of New Hampshire to implement statewide protection on the basis of gender-identity and gender-expression in the areas of employment, housing and public accommodations. As of now, 20 states have put a similar law into place. New Hampshire, however, is not one of them.
Former student senate speaker and current Student Senator Douglas Marino has been actively and vigorously working with the Student Senate to make this change.
“That [bill] would protect people from statewide discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodations,” Marino said. “So things like restrooms and restaurants, so that people couldn’t be discriminated against and turned away from basic services that are open to the public and open to everybody.”
In states where it’s illegal to discriminate, all individuals have a legal recourse to take legal action. The legal consequence for those who perpetuated the gender discrimination could vary from a fine, settlement or whatever the court decides based upon the magnitude of the circumstance.
According to Marino, implementing this bill at the state level is going to take some work because of the difficulty that comes with passing a bill at the state level in New Hampshire. However, there are campaigns already pushing to get this bill passed, such as Freedom New Hampshire.
Freedom New Hampshire is a statewide organization that is campaigning for these protections to be implemented at the state level.
His hope, Marino expressed, is that in January, when new legislature is put into place, they’ll be able to provide a piece of legislation and work with the Freedom New Hampshire campaign in order to push this bill through. There are currently five state representatives in Durham that fully support this bill and wish to see it put into action, according to Marino.
“There are people in the legislature who know us and who are willing to work with us,” Marino said. “Those relationships can help us as we try to do this with equal rights bills when budgets come up and get more money for the university. So those connections can [be] really important.”
The time frame of the potential passing and implementation of the bill is unknown.
Marino said that he believes people will act quickly, and that he will do whatever it takes to get this bill passed by state legislature. It would need to be passed by the New Hampshire House of Representatives and Senate, then signed by the governor; the legislature can also override a governor’s decision by a two-thirds vote.
“It means a lot to us, as students, because we’re an institution that prides itself in equal rights and fairness for all people,” Marino said.
According to him, many other surrounding towns have gotten on board with the movement and urged the state to act upon implementation of gender discrimination policies.
Marino expressed his pride in Student Senate’s continuation to fight for equal rights and fairness.
Last year, Student Senate passed a resolution that transformed all single-use bathrooms into gender-inclusive restrooms. These single-use restrooms can be seen most frequently in the Memorial Union Building.
“Personally, people would love to see us go further and have even more gender-inclusive restrooms, but I think our [gender-inclusive] resolution is a good place to start and is heading in the right direction,” Marino said.
Marino said that his biggest hope in passing this resolution is to raise awareness of the issue as he noted that there remain a lot of people who don’t know that New Hampshire doesn’t have any laws protecting transgender people from discrimination. He believes that if more people were to be aware of this, there would be an increase of people taking such action on the issue in the state.
Marino said that he urges people, especially young people, to join the Freedom New Hampshire campaign.
“This is an issue that cannot wait and can’t wait any longer,” Marino said. “People are getting discriminated [against] in New Hampshire and that situation needs o be fixed immediately as far as I’m concerned.”