March 17, 2021
In a win for all students and continued inclusion and fairness in New Hampshire, the House Education Committee voted to retain HB 198, which would have banned transgender girls and young women from participating in high school and college sports. Coming one week after a powerful hearing at which transgender students, parents, allies, and advocates spoke about the harms of such a ban, the vote to retain rather than send the bill to the House with a positive or negative recommendation means transgender girls and women may continue participating in sports programs as they have been doing for years. The bill now remains with the committee to discuss potential changes for the 2022 session.
“There are no changes that could make this discriminatory bill acceptable, but today’s move by the committee is a victory for trans girls in New Hampshire, who will continue to be able to play on sports teams with their peers.” said Palana Belken, who authored a report on trans-inclusive student policies. “Teammates, coaches, parents, and trans athletes turned out overwhelmingly against this bill, with 1135 people signing in to oppose the bill and 30 individuals sharing powerful testimony against it. That made it impossible for the committee to send it to the House with a positive recommendation.”
The guidelines of the New Hampshire Interscholastic Athletic Association (NHIAA) allow school districts to set their own policies regarding transgender students in athletic programs. Fifty school districts in New Hampshire have trans-inclusive student policies – many of which include athletic participation.
“Trans students like me play sports for the same reasons everyone else does: to bond with friends over our shared love of the game. I’m relieved the bill will not move forward this year but I worry about next year.” said Lane Joslin, a high school sophomore who testified at the bill’s public hearing. “I look forward to the day when trans kids don’t have to be concerned about being targeted and are simply free to live our lives.”
“By voting to retain, the committee recognized that HB 198 is not only unnecessary, but that it is bad for New Hampshire,” said Chris Erchull, Staff Attorney at GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders. Devon Chaffee, executive director of the ACLU of New Hampshire, added, “We will continue to fight this discriminatory bill should it come back next year, because transgender students have the right to participate in sports consistent with who they are.”