Opinion: NH’s legislative landscape, and bills with the potential to harm

NH State House in Concord.

NH State House in Concord. File photo


Published: 05-15-2024 6:00 AM

Tess Sumner is a student at Newfound Regional High School in Bristol.

As a young citizen of New Hampshire, I want to express my reservations about House Bill 1312. This bill is just one example of a recurring trend in the legislative landscape, where bills with the potential to harm marginalized communities continue to surface.

Despite repeated efforts by advocacy groups and concerned citizens to oppose discriminatory legislation, bills like HB 1312 persist, posing significant risks to the rights and dignity of LGBTQ+ individuals. The recurrence of such bills not only reflects a disregard for the principles of equality and inclusivity, but also perpetuates a climate of fear and uncertainty for those who are most vulnerable.

At its core, HB 1312 aims to bolster what supporters refer to as ‘parental rights’ in education. The bill seeks to expand parents’ authority to opt their children out of instructional materials or programs related to sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, or gender expression. On the surface, this may seem like a reasonable measure to some, emphasizing parental involvement and choice in their children’s education. However, upon closer examination, it becomes evident that HB 1312 has the potential to create harmful situations for LGBTQ+ students.

One of the primary concerns surrounding HB 1312 is its potential to compel school staff to disclose sensitive information about students’ identities to their parents or guardians without their consent. For LGBTQ+ students who may not feel safe or accepted at home, this could lead to exposure to hostile or unsupportive environments, putting their emotional and physical well-being at risk.

Schools are meant to be spaces where all students feel safe, supported, and included, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity. However, HB 1312 threatens to undermine this fundamental principle by forcing disclosures that could result in discrimination, rejection, or even harm to LGBTQ+ youth.

Furthermore, HB 1312 directly conflicts with New Hampshire’s commitment to upholding nondiscrimination policies and protecting the rights of LGBTQ+ individuals. The state has made strides in promoting equality and inclusivity, as evidenced by laws such as Section 354-A:29 of the State Commission for Human Rights, which prohibits discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation. By mandating disclosures that could expose LGBTQ+ students to discriminatory treatment or rejection from their families, HB 1312 contradicts the progress New Hampshire has made in ensuring equal rights and protections for all its residents.

The introduction and consideration of bills like HB 1312 send a troubling message about the values and priorities of New Hampshire’s lawmakers. Instead of focusing on measures that promote understanding, acceptance, and support for all residents, these bills prioritize the interests of a narrow segment of the population while disregarding the rights and well-being of others.

The effect of these discriminatory efforts is profound, creating an environment where certain individuals feel marginalized, excluded, and unsafe in their communities. For LGBTQ+ youth, in particular, the constant threat of discriminatory legislation can have devastating consequences, leading to increased rates of mental health issues, self-harm, and suicide.

As concerned citizens, it is imperative for us to recognize the harmful impact of bills like HB 1312 and to actively oppose any legislation that seeks to discriminate against or marginalize members of our community. By standing together, we can work towards building a more inclusive and equitable society where all individuals are treated with dignity and respect.

Rejecting HB 1312 is not only a matter of upholding the principles of equality and inclusivity, but also of safeguarding the rights of youth who deserve to learn and thrive in environments free from fear and discrimination.