New Hampshire’s Legislative Debate Protecting the Rights of LGBTQ+ Children

New Hampshire’s Legislative Debate: Protecting the Rights of LGBTQ+ Children

Cassandra Sanchez, a New Hampshire Child Advocate, speaks out against a variety of Republican measures that she believes would limit LGBTQ+ children’s rights on April 2, 2024, in Concord. (Ethan DeWitt | NH Bulletin)

Cassandra Sanchez, New Hampshire’s child advocate, spoke out Tuesday against a series of proposals she believes will have a “chilling effect” on LGBTQ+ children, pushing lawmakers to vote against them.

Sanchez joined other opponents at a press conference in Concord on Tuesday morning to speak out against legislation that would prohibit transgender girls from participating in girls’ sports, require public school teachers and staff to reveal a child’s gender identity or sexual orientation if asked, and allow businesses to designate bathrooms and locker rooms based on biology.

“These bills not only dehumanize our LGBTQ+ residents, but they also single out an already vulnerable population,” Sanchez said in a statement.

The Office of the Child Advocate, established in 2017, is a watchdog organization that analyzes state agencies, such as the Division for Children, Youth, and Families, to see whether they are upholding child welfare. Sanchez is the second person to hold the position; she was selected by Gov. Chris Sununu and confirmed by the Executive Council in 2022.

This year, Republican lawmakers have introduced a plethora of measures affecting LGBTQ+ persons in schools and other settings.

Several bills have passed the House, including House Bill 396, which allows companies and governmental institutions to divide toilets, locker rooms, and athletic teams based on biological sex, and House Bill 1205, which prohibits transgender girls from participating on girls’ sports teams.

Other bills are scheduled for a vote in the full Senate on Thursday, including Senate Bill 562, the Senate’s version of HB 396; Senate Bill 375, the Senate’s version of HB 1205; and Senate Bill 341, which requires teacher disclosure in response to parental queries.

According to advocates, the teacher disclosure measure is intended to protect parental rights and provide families with accurate information about their children at school. Opponents argue that it might oblige school workers to disclose children’s pronouns to their parents, even if the youngster did not want them to know.

“The trust is between the parent and the teacher, and the parent and the school system,” said Sen. Tim Lang, a Sanbornton Republican and SB 341 sponsor, at a press conference in January. “This bill aims to maintain trust.” That when a parent asks, the educational system provides an honest and thorough answer. And has faith in it.

Proponents of the sports laws contend that they are intended to ensure justice for cisgender girls, who they believe will face more competition from transgender girls who are born biologically male. Opponents argue that there have been few examples of this and that approving the measure will deny trans females the chance to play on the gender identity team.

Sanchez spoke out against the bills alongside Erin George-Kelly, Waypoint’s director of homeless youth and young adult services; Julie Kim, president of the New Hampshire Pediatric Society; and Michelle Veasey, executive director of New Hampshire Businesses for Social Responsibility, a nonprofit organization.

Sanchez said that the legislation would weaken important safeguards for transgender people and others. She also underlined her fear that the measure forcing parents to disclose their gender identification could lead to abuse or neglect.

“We do worry that outing children to their parents when they are not ready and they are still exploring their identity can create a very tense and harmful situation in their home environments,” Sanchez went on to say.

The proposals allow school workers to refuse to answer parents’ questions if they believe doing so will result in abuse and neglect. But Sanchez said making that decision would be difficult.

Sanchez told reporters Tuesday that she has not spoken with Governor Chris Sununu on the measures. But she claimed she would use her position to persuade Trump to veto the laws if they arrived on his desk.

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