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UNH students and a Durham resident try to call gender identification into NH law

The New Hampshire House of Representatives is expected to vote on House Bill (HB) 478 on Thursday morning in motion to include gender identification in New Hampshire’s Law Against Discrimination.

On Tuesday night, UNH students and Durham resident  Boyd Hefarty made approximately 200 phone calls to Republican representatives whose vote on the matter was either unidentified or “swingable.” Junior political science major and Student Senate Community Development Chair Doug Marino said that, though the phone bank reached many people, results will be unclear until the final vote.

“It’s hard to know, we got to talk to a lot of people so that was certainly a success,” Marino said. “It’s hard to see if we really persuaded people, we’ll have to wait and see how the vote comes out.”

Currently, New Hampshire’s State Commission for Human Rights protects against discrimination based on age, sex, race, creed, color, marital status, familial status, physical or mental disability or national origin. The Associated Press reported that New Hampshire is the only state in New England without gender identity protection. According to Marino, HB 478’s standing committee recommended the bill with a 15-2 vote, however, there is motion among those who oppose HB 478 to table the bill, meaning consideration for its implementation will be suspended for this session.

An article published by the New Hampshire Union Leader said New Hampshire’s House Speaker, Shawn Jasper, is among those who oppose the bill.

Hegarty, a Durham resident and parent to a transgender child, said that as this topic becomes more salient, it comes back to being educated on the specific issue when making voting decisions. According to Hegarty, the New Hampshire Association of Chiefs of Police support this bill, suggesting safety will be increased.

“That’s a sticking point,” Hegarty said. “Because if you’re not educated on the topic then it’s very difficult to be definitive in your thinking in that topic.”

Marino said the last time a bill of this nature was voted on was in 2009, when it passed in the House of Representatives but failed in the senate.

Senior political science and women’s studies major Emerson Doiron was also among the students calling representatives. Though she said she did leave a lot of messages, she said it is still important to get the word out, adding that once a bill is tabled, it is very unlikely it will be brought into session again.

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