NH House Considers Discriminatory Legislation That Could Also Silence Free Speech

Last year, HB1661 attempted to make this a punishable offense.

If your child (anyone under the age of 18) has wondered whether or not they are, in fact, heterosexual it could be illegal under HB 1661 for any “professional” to counsel them in any way that would encourage that–for lack of a better word–journey to their biological roots. 

It may not have been written with that intention but since when did that matter? This year’s version is HB587, and it is no different. A heterosexual child curious about the “gender spectrum” cannot receive counseling under HB587 that encourages that outcome to the slightest possible detriment of any other.

Feel free to read last years detailed remarks here, but this year there’s an added twist. I think HB587 might also violate the first amendment.

First, the legislative definition of “conversion therapy” in HB587 includes,

 “any practices or treatments that seek to change an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity, including efforts to change behaviors or gender expressions.”

That is very broad language. This “clause” by itself could change the behavior of almost any professional person who finds themselves in a situation where they are speaking to someone under the age of 18 (emphasis mine) on the subject of gender.

332-L:2 Prohibition; Violations, and Enforcement. I. A person who is licensed to provide professional counseling under RSA 326-B, RSA 328-D, RSA 329, RSA 329-B, RSA 330-A:16, RSA 330-A:18, RSA 330-A:19, RSA-A:20, RSA 330-A:21, or RSA 330-C, including, but not limited to, a nurse, physician assistant, physician, psychologist, clinical social worker, clinical mental health counselor, marriage and family therapist, or licensed alcohol and drug counselor, or a person who performs counseling as part of the person’s professional training for any of these professions, shall not engage in conversion therapy  with a person under 18 years of age

That’s a big “but not limited to.” Combined with the “including efforts to change behaviors or gender expressions” the opportunity for silencing debate or discussion is plausible. How bad might it be?

The same cabal has a bathroom bill on the docket. HB478 (preventing discrimination based on gender identity) is couched in the language of a gender equality law but as written opens bathroom and locker room doors to anyone of any gender. To deny any access anywhere under such a law would be “discrimination” and illegal.

Sure it does. Both bills fit the “if you get a good lawyer” standard. As written a good lawyer will tear you apart in court and make you or your town or your business regret every being born. All they need is the opportunity to set the example for everyone else. These bills do that.

Let’s add to that this interesting thought experiment.

-Passing HB587 first could make it illegal for “professionals” to offer an opposing opinion on HB478 to a minor if such a declaration could be construed as an effort to change gender behavior or expression.

-Under either bill suggested reading, curriculum, movies, even public statements that show heterosexual behavior in a favorable light, could be targeted by a good lawyer as blanket efforts at conversion therapy or in violation of the rights of someone with a different gender perception. While portraying non-heterosexual gender roles are protected speech.

-Asking a heterosexual girl to tolerate a person with a penis in her bathroom or locker room does not constitute an effort to change her gender-based behaviors. Professionals can force her to accept against her will an idea about gender and expression to which she may object, but neither HB587 nor HB478 affords her an ounce of protection. In fact, were she to express her objection to biological boys sharing her locker room or bathroom she might be setting herself up for disciplinary or legal action.

Speech suppressed. Rights of association are likewise at risk. Religious liberty is most certainly threatened.

Sure, we’ll get some verbal assurance from proponents that neither bill is meant to operate that way. No one intends to prohibit free speech or expression.

They may even attempt to dismiss every objection as far-fetched bigotry.

But tell that to the bakers, photographers, and florists pilloried by the press, liberal NGO’s, or lawyers grinding ideological axes on the stone of gender equality.

Regardless of any good intentions these are both bad bills. They need to be killed in committee.

The New Hampshire House Health, Human Services and Elderly Affairs Committee is holding hearings on both pieces of legislation tomorrow, February 21st. HB587 is at 10 am. HB478 is at 1:15 pm. Both hearings are in the LOB, room 305-307.