Cornerstone Action

Tuesday, February 21: Public Hearings in Concord on Bills Regarding "Conversion Therapy" and Gender Identity

The New Hampshire House Health, Human Services and Elderly Affairs Committee will hold public hearings next Tuesday, February 21, on two bills with a common theme: SOGI (sexual orientation/gender identity). Watch your inbox for a Cornerstone email this weekend with background information on this legislation.
10 a.m.: HB 587, Relative to Conversion Therapy Seeking to Change an Individual's Sexual Orientation
HB 587 would prohibit persons licensed to provide counseling services from engaging in "conversion therapy" with a person under 18 years of age in an attempt to alter the patient/client's sexual orientation. The bill carries a penalty of professional sanctions for the offending counselor. 
1:15 p.m.: HB 478, Prohibiting Discrimination Based on Gender Identity
HB 478 would add gender identity to the list of protected classes covered by New Hampshire's anti-discrimination law., treating it in the same manner as race. The bill defines "gender identity" as "a person's gender-related identity, appearance or behavior, whether or not that gender-related identity, appearance or behavior is different from that traditionally associated with the person's physiology or assigned sex at birth...."  

If these measures are intended to recognize the inherent dignity of each human being, they fall short. The sponsors have the burden of proving that these bills are necessary. Or will they create more problems than they'd solve?
  • How do the sponsors of HB 478 propose to address privacy concerns if public accommodations such as bathrooms are not divided by gender?
  • If HB 587 is only meant to be used against practitioners who actively advertise "conversion therapy," where are those practitioners? Or is the bill a solution in search of a problem?
  • Do the bills respecting the conscience rights and religious liberty of all New Hampshire residents?
  • Do these bills build a community marked by mutual respect or one marred by intolerance, labeling, and shaming?
Action Item: Both hearings are open to the public, in rooms 305-307 of the Legislative Office Building. (This is a larger venue than the committee's usual room.) If you are concerned about these bills but can't attend the hearings, please send your questions and concerns to the members of the Heath, Human Services and Elderly Affairs Committee. 

Rep. Frank Kotowski, chairman  (R-Hooksett)   603-340-6999   
Rep. Don LeBrun, vice chair (R-Nashua) 603-886-1725   
Rep. Charles McMahon (R-Windham)    603-432-8877   
Rep. Bill Nelson  (R-Brookfield)    603-522-5279    
Rep. John Fothergill  (R-Colebrook)    603-915-1220  
Rep. James MacKay (D-Concord)    603-224-0623   
Rep. Mary Freitas (D-Manchester)    603-622-9056    
Rep. Kendall Snow (D-Manchester)    603-669-1075   
Rep. Joseph Guthrie (R-Hampstead)    603-489-1228    
Rep. Daniel Donovan (R-Deering)    603-464-5805   
Rep. Pamela Gordon (D-Portsmouth)    603-319-8398  
Rep. Martin Bove (R-Londonderry)    603-434-8435   
Rep. Jess Edwards  (R-Auburn)    603-370-7885   
Rep. Jim Fedolfi (R-Hillsborough) 603-464-050     
Rep. William Marsh (R-Wolfeboro)    603-569-6382   
Rep. Mark Pearson  (R-Hampstead)    603-571-0205   
Rep. Mariellen MacKay (D-Nashua)    603-577-8932   
Rep. Patrick Long  (D-Manchester)    603-668-1037    
Rep. Jerry Knirk  (D-Freedom)  617-448-7557   
Rep. Mindi Messmer (D-Rye)    603-498-8847   
Rep. Jeffrey Salloway  (D-Lee)   603-868-1726   

Frank Edelblut Confirmed As Commissioner of Education

On February 15, the Executive Council confirmed Frank Edelblut to be the state's Commissioner of Education. The vote was 3-2. Councilors Joe Kenney, Russell Prescott, and Dave Wheeler supported Edelblut, while Councilors Andru Volinsky and Chris Pappas voted Nay. 

Cornerstone board member Shannon McGinley released this statement after the Council's vote:
"Frank Edelblut is committed to fostering academic excellence for all New Hampshire's children. He understands that children are ill-served by a one-size-fits-all approach to education. He trusts parents to make wise decisions regarding their childrens' education. He trusts local boards and teachers more than the federal government when it comes to making curriculum choices. All of this, plus his extensive administrative experience, make him an excellent choice for Education Commissioner. We look forward to his service to the people of New Hampshire. 

His confirmation is especially gratifying after an Executive Council hearing where some of the questioning had nothing to do with education and instead veered off into religious beliefs and associations. There is no room in New Hampshire for religious litmus tests for any nominee to any office. Fortunately, a majority of Councilors still understand that."

Action Item:  If your Councilor supported Mr. Edelblut, be sure to tell him THANK YOU! Contact information is here. To check which district you're in, look at the map on this page

In Case You Missed It: Ann Marie Banfield, Cornerstone's education liaison, wrote on about the unsuccessful effort in some quarters to derail Mr. Edelblut's nomination. "The nomination of Frank Edelblut to Commissioner of Education in New Hampshire has proven to be one of the dirtiest political games in a long time. From the inquisition by Executive Councilor Volinsky, to the Chairman of the Board of Education Tom Raffio playing politics, this leaves parents wondering if anyone will ever hear their concerns." Read the whole post. Fortunately, Commissioner Edelblut rose above all criticism and is now on the job for New Hampshire students!


Hearings and Votes Scheduled For Week of Feb. 20

New Hampshire Senate
The full Senate will meet Thursday, February 23, and is expected to vote on SB 224, a "conversion therapy" bill similar to HB 587 as described in the first section of this update. The bill goes to the Senate with an "ought to pass" committee recommendation.  
New Hampshire House 
There's no session of the full House scheduled for the week of February 20.
Tuesday, February 21:
  • As described in the opening section of this update, the Health, Human Services and Elderly Affairs Committee will have hearings on HB 587, conversion therapy (10 a.m.) and HB 478, adding gender identity to New Hampshire's anti-discrimination law (1:15 p.m.). Both hearings will be in Rooms 305-307 of the Legislative Office Building.
  • Children and Family Law, room 206 LOB, 1:00 p.m.: CACR 2, a constitutional amendment providing that children have a natural right to be protected by their parents.
  • Education, room 207 LOB: The committee will vote on several charter-school-related measures at 11:00 a.m. Other bills to add unnecessary regulation to public charter schools have already been defeated this session, and we are optimistic that next week's bills will get the same sharp scrutiny from the committee. At 1:30, the committee will have a work session on HB 396, relative to student assessment data privacy. We'll let you know when a vote is scheduled. 
  • Judiciary, room 208 LOB: At 10:00 a.m., the committee will vote on several bills including HB 578 (post-viability abortion ban) and HB 589 (buffer zone repeal). These votes were postponed from an earlier session.
Wednesday, February 22:
  • At 9:30 a.m., the Education committee will vote on several bills including HB 396, the student assessment data privacy bill. 
  • Executive Departments and Administration, room 305-307, 10:45 a.m.: HB 334, relative to an exemption from licensure by the board of medical imaging and radiation therapy. This measure could enhance client access to a service at pregnancy care centers, and Cornerstone supports that goal.

Recent Votes in Concord

Right-to-work legislation was defeated by the House on February 16, with SB 11 falling to an "inexpedient to legislate motion," 200-177. This was a disappointment but not a surprise. 

HB 287, the bill that would have set up a "study" on decriminalizing prostitution, was reconsidered by the House Criminal Justice committee, and the committee switched its recommendation from "ought to pass" to "retain." This is great news! The bill cannot come back again this year. Many committee members said they'd received a lot of phone calls opposing the bill. Thank you for your work! 

HB 264, making oral contraceptives available over-the-counter, was amended by the House into a study committee. This is not the same as "interim study"; instead, the bill as amended creates a new committee to study the over-the-counter issue.The proposed committee's members would include a representative of Planned Parenthood of Northern New England, but would not include a representative of any group opposed to Obamacare's contraceptive mandate. (See our last email update for more about that mandate). 

A Florist's Religious Liberty Fight Must Now Go to the Supreme Court

Barronelle Stutzman lives in Washington state, but what's happening in her life has implications for all of us. You may already be familiar with her: she is a florist who declined to provide arrangements for a same-sex wedding ceremony, because of her belief that authentic marriage is one-man-one-woman. She didn't want to make a political statement or stop the wedding; she simply wanted to live and let live. 

She was sued. She lost. Alliance Defending Freedom described what happened February 16: "After much anticipation, the Washington Supreme Court has punished Barronelle Stutzman for peacefully operating her business consistently with her faith. The court’s decision affirms a lower-court ruling that requires Barronelle to pay the attorneys’ fees that the ACLU racked up in suing her."

Read more at the Alliance Defending Freedom site. Think about Barronelle as SOGI measures arise close to home - such as the bills coming to a New Hampshire House committee on Tuesday, February 21, as we described at the beginning of this update.


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