During this time of increased partisanship and division across our country, in New Hampshire we are celebrating a legislative victory that many considered impossible: a Republican House, a Republican State Senate and a Republican governor – with unwavering support from Democrats – added gender identity to our state’s non-discrimination law.

The ACLU of NH is proud to have been at the center of this transformative, three-year initiative. 

Three years ago, the ACLU of NH recognized an opportunity to protect transgender and non-binary individuals from discrimination in the only New England state that had yet to adopt such protections. Building off the 2015 victory in Massachusetts, we began to help build a broad-based, bipartisan coalition comprised of local statewide and national allies.

With the support of the national GLBTQ Legal Advocates and Defenders and Freedom for All Americans, the ACLU of NH served as the local anchor for less formal networks of Granite State trans rights activists. Arm-in-arm with PFLAG-NH, Transgender-NH, Rights and Democracy NH, and NH State Rep. Ed Butler, we formed a dynamic steering committee at the core of the Freedom New Hampshire initiative.  

The ACLU of NH served as Freedom New Hampshire’s fiscal sponsor, and our office bustled as the physical hub for staff, organizers and volunteers reaching out to communities across the state. We leveraged longstanding local relationships, including NH Chiefs of Police Association, women’s rights advocates, and businesses. We also brought our policy expertise and many years of experience working with the uniquely challenging New Hampshire State House to the table, putting our staff and their existing relationships with legislators to work. 

It was a long trek.

New Hampshire advocates have been pushing for transgender rights since an attempt to add gender identity to our nondiscrimination laws failed in 2009. In 2017, shortly after the launch of the Freedom New Hampshire initiative, a transgender nondiscrimination bill failed to advance in the New Hampshire House by eight votes.

In cooperation with ACLU national and it’s Transgender Education and Advocacy Program and Freedom for All American’s training programs, we worked to empower members of the trans community and their advocates and allies to tell their stories.

The coalition spent the next year organizing strategic conversations between elected officials and transgender and non-binary individuals. It was those one-on-one, in-person, in-district conversations where trans people told their own personal stories that ultimately made all the difference.

The New Hampshire House is a unique institution. With 400 members, it is the third largest English-speaking parliamentary body in the world. Its members make approximately $100 a year and have a reputation for being independent-minded and not susceptible to big money influence. Yet those members were clearly influenced by their trans and non-binary neighbors and constituents in March of 2018 when they voted 195-129 in favor of protecting those individuals from discrimination.  

The big question now facing New Hampshire LGBTQ activists: What’s next? The fight for LGBTQ rights and lived equality in the Granite State is far from over. We have a long way to go to ensure that transgender individuals enjoy full protections in schools, receive necessary government services and have to access critical medical care. The ACLU of NH remains committed and inspired to push for full LGBTQ rights in our state in the months and years to come.

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