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N.H. Senate panel rejects transgender bill

By Norma Love
Associated Press / April 24, 2009
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CONCORD, N.H. - Former corrections officer Toni Maviki choked on her words as she described being pummeled against a concrete wall by a fellow guard who learned she was transitioning from being a man to being a woman.

The 52-year-old from Danbury filed complaints that led to further harassment until finally quitting her job, she testified at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing yesterday on legislation to extend antidiscrimination law protections to transgender people.

But the committee was not swayed by her story or others. After a three-hour hearing, the committee voted 5 to 0 to recommend killing the bill.

The full Senate could vote on it as early as next week. Unanimous committee recommendations are difficult, though not impossible, to overturn on the floor.

Maviki gave a vivid account of the harassment she endured, and wondered aloud who was protecting her rights.

"They snapped rubber bands against my breasts," Maviki testified of her treatment by other guards. "I was kicked. I carried a badge, and I protected all you people, and there was no law to protect me from harm."

Republicans had labeled it the "bathroom bill," based on the argument it would open all bathrooms to both men and women. Republicans said women and children would be put at risk if men came into women's restrooms.

Ann Marie Banfield of Bedford testified she was angry that lawmakers would consider protecting potential predators from walking into women's locker rooms or bathrooms.

"I am here as a woman fighting for my privacy rights,' she said. "Where are my rights? Where are my daughter's rights?"

Shannon McGinley of Bedford said sex is a biological fact, not a state of mind. "A man is a man, and a closet full of dresses does not change that," she said.

Supporters said opponents were attempting to paint a straightforward antidiscrimination bill as something it is not. They said it would protect a vulnerable group who identify with the gender opposite of their birth.

"We don't go to the bathroom to attack people," said Maviki, who now works for law enforcement as a woman in Vermont.

The bill would add "gender identity or expression" to the state's laws prohibiting discrimination because of age, sex, race, color, sexual orientation, marital status, familial status, or physical or mental disability, religious creed, or national origin.

During the committee's deliberations, Senator Robert Letourneau, Republican of Derry, said the bill was too broad and could have unintended consequences.

Other committee members said the state's Human Rights Commission should be able to handle complaints filed by transgender individuals.

Senate Judiciary chairwoman Deborah Reynolds of Plymouth, a former commission member, acknowledged that the law is not clear, but supported the recommendation to kill the bill.

Governor John Lynch has also questioned whether existing laws are adequate.

Thirteen states, the District of Columbia, and 93 cities and counties have laws banning discrimination on transgender status, according to the Transgender Law Policy Institute.