CONCORD, NH — A “parental bill of rights” that critics say is designed to target transgender youth passed Thursday by New Hampshire’s Republican-led Senate.
Much of the debate among lawmakers centered on provisions that require school officials, when asked by parents, to disclose that a child is using a different name or is referred to as a different gender.
Supporters said the bill would strengthen family relationships, while opponents argued that it violates the constitutional right to privacy and the state’s anti-discrimination laws.
Many states with Republican-controlled legislatures have enacted similar measures, fueled by the frustration of some parents with schools that were overflowing during the coronavirus pandemic. And in the US House of Representatives, a parental rights bill was the first legislation House Speaker Kevin McCarthy had formally announced, fulfilling an important part of the Party’s campaign platform. Republican last year.
New Hampshire Sen. Donovan Fenton, D-Keene, said the bill passed Thursday “will further fuel the transphobic and homophobic narrative that has begun to infiltrate our state from national interest groups.”
“Attacking and targeting of the LGBTQ+ community has increased across the country, and New Hampshire is no exception,” he said.
The state Senate bill passed 14-10 along party lines and now goes to the 400-member House, which has a slim Republican majority.
“We must value and support the loving relationships that exist in our New Hampshire families,” said Sen. Denise Ricciardi, R-Bedford. “Senate Bill 272 stands up for truth, love and family.”
Bradford Republican Sen. Dan Innis, who is gay, said if a student is “visibly transitioning at school or visibly gay,” parents should hear it from teachers, not gossipy neighbors.
“I think this bill will create a situation where a student is less likely to be expelled by their peers, and more likely to happen in a way that is supportive of that child,” he said. “I can tell you that at 13 years old, I was also very confused and parental support would have been very helpful.”
But Democrats backed down, questioning who determines what is “visibly gay.”
“That is not the teacher’s job to determine for the individual. That is information for the person to disclose or not, when she is ready and when she feels comfortable,” said Sen. Becky Whitley, D-Hopkinston. “Who’s to decide when someone is moving into a different gender based on clothing, or just likes pink?”
The New Hampshire House of Representatives, which is considering its own parental rights legislation, killed a similar bill last year after Republican Gov. Chris Sununu vowed to veto it. He has not taken a position on the new bills.
The House was set to vote Thursday on a bill that would require multi-stall restrooms and locker rooms in K-12 public schools to be single-sex, but it was postponed due to building code concerns.