It became official yesterday afternoon when New Hampshire Gov. John Lynch signed a bill into law, making New Hampshire the sixth state to allow same-sex marriage. Lynch, a Democrat, personally opposed gay marriage but earlier said he would view the issue "through a broader lens." Virtually all of New England now allows same-sex marriage, with Rhode Island the sole exception.
Said New Hampshire's favorite gay son, Bishop V. Eugene Robinson, "It's about being recognized as whole people and whole citizens. There are a lot of people standing here who when we grew up could not have imagined this," Robinson said. "You can't imagine something that is simply impossible. It's happened, in our lifetimes."
So now we have yet another state that allows gay and lesbian couples, and even transgenders, to marry on January 1, 2010. You can bet there will be couples lined up taking advantage of the new law on New Years morning!
"I look at you and see the passion eyes of May.
Oh, but am I ever gonna see my wedding day?" — Wedding Bell Blues, Fifth Dimension
However if you're transgender, you won't be able to work. Like Massachusetts or Connecticut, you can only marry but still be fired for being who you are. As Bishop Robinson said, you're whole people, whole citizens – just not free to work in the Live Free Or Die state. And no, if you have no ability to be hired and end up homeless, you can't live FOR free there. Of course you do have the right to die there and they likely won't have much problem with that. It's the latter option in their motto, and we trans people certainly aren't free to work in New Hampshire.
For trans Americans (unless you live under a rock), we remember the recent New Hampshire senate vote on Trans employment non discrimination. Zero to 24 – we were absolutely shut out! That spoke volumes!
In discussing how marriage will affect the New Hampshire primaries in 2012, an Associated Press article noted it was likely to have an affect in that state's election dialogue. They note that in New Hampshire, Republicans tend to be more fiscally conservative and socially moderate.
"When presidential candidates campaign here, they have traditionally focused on the economy, foreign policy, health care," said political analyst Dean Spiliotes. "Social issues have never really played a major role here in the campaign."
That's rather interesting. It also flies in the face of recent reality, where Republicans defeated trans employment non discrimination by forcing a new name upon it: "the Bathroom bill."
Now I ask: does that sound like New Hampshire Republicans are socially moderate? Do you believe social issues never really play a major role there?
Yet even in hard-ass, conservative places like New Hampshire where they still openly play trans people as perverted freaks lurking around bathrooms, same-sex marriage is now legal. Six years ago marriage wasn't even on the radar. Employment non discrimination, which has been worked on for over 15 years is not a reality.
On employment, we in the Trans community are actually a bit worse off than we were when the marriage fight began. Not only are employment rights stalling, but bathroom issues and freakish caricatures of society's phobias about trans people are becoming more common in even the halls of government.
That's to say nothing of the increased difficulties in trans people getting jobs in the first place! Unlike gays and lesbians, when trans people transition we face the no-match problems with Social Security and other complications thanks to the Real I.D. Act. Blogger Marti Abernathey pointed this out in her TransAdvocate blog recently
I always thought when I got my documentation changed, I transitioned, and was passable, that I'd be able to live the nice normal life I did before transition. It hasn't quite worked out that way. Recently I was interviewed a few times and offered a job... and then I got that dreaded call.
"Marti, we were doing our normal background check and we have a problem. We keep getting a rejection with your gender."
I had to tell my potential future employer that I am a pre-operative transsexual.
It must be said that Marti lives in Wisconsin, the first state in the union to enact employment non discrimination for sexual orientation, and one that still has no such protection for trans folk like her.
Worse still, I live in good-old-boy, rednecked, so-arch-conservative-that-fascists-are-bleeding-heart-liberals Texas. My last permanant job was in 2002 with only a patchwork of temporary jobs since. Imagine the prospects for trans people in the southern tier of states.
Even if states like Wisconsin or Texas or any others newly enact non discrimination laws, it's not like marriage where folks line up and immediately take advantage of the new law. Marriage happens immediately upon the day it goes into effect.
Employment, especially for trans people who are still lagging far behind on being known and understood, it may be months, a year or years after before an employer hires trans people. So, when have we seen anyone in the gay and lesbian leadership or media prioritize employment recently?
Yes, we did have a big stink raised over President Barack Obama not nominating an "out" gay or lesbian to his cabinet yet. He's only hired 31 gays or lesbians to various staff positions that apparently aren't considered key or high-profile positions. But that's a very limited employment opportunity scope. And it's also for "high-ranking" and "respected" and "openly" gay White House staffer, per Charles Socarides May 1, 2009 article in the Washington Post.
To Socarides' credit though, he did also mention need for an "omnibus federal gay civil rights legislation, similar to the Civil Rights Act of 1964, outlawing discrimination based on sexual orientation." (Yeah, I know ... nothing in there that effects trans.)
But that's been about the extent of it on employment.
As for now I keep getting more stories from my friends of their lost jobs, their vastly reduced hours or income, the long-term-with-no-end-in-sight unemployment (not unlike my own!) and folks on the edge of going homeless. I've lost touch with at least one who likely has now gone homeless: another blip that stops pulsing on the radar screen.
Meanwhile, we have the right to marry who we wish in New Hampshire. That's important.
I only wish it were as important for trans people to live. Live Free ... or ... Die. Indeed.
Below are recent statements from Sen. Jacalyn Ciley and Sen. Bette Lasky on the floor of the New Hampshire Senate
Sen. Ciley's remarks from the floor after the failure of House Bill 415.
Madam President and my colleagues,
I stand to speak to this bill with a picture of two young boys in my mind. These two children were not renowned musicians, not well-known athletes, not great writers, not Nobel Peace Prize winners - not many of the things that they might have grown to be. And, the dreams that their mothers and fathers may have cherished for their sons, just ordinary boys, will now never be.
No, young Carl Joseph Walker-Hoover and Jaheem Hareira will never fulfill their parents' dreams because they were driven to a terminal desperate act by a society that accepts and perpetuates the marginalization and ostracizing of anyone who can be labeled an "other," anyone who may not appear to be some perceived stereotypical image of the "accepted" group.
Although these boys lived miles apart from one another, one in Massachusetts and one in Georgia, what they shared was daily anti-gay taunts, just one of the many forms of gender-based discrimination.
These children were made to feel so utterly devoid of value, so worthless that to simply stop the pain they took their own lives. And, they are among the five children just since February of this year who have done the same thing for the same reason.
And there are countless examples of transgendered teens who have been murdered for just being who they are.
Every member of our society should hang his or her head in shame that we should, by our actions or our inactions, foster a system that would drive our children to such an unspeakable alternative.
The bill before us seeks to prevent a similar form of discrimination to a small, but vulnerable group of our citizens. Please let me repeat this overshadowed fact - this legislation addresses discrimination.
Yet, there are those for whom political posturing and partisan gamesmanship have so polluted the intent of this bill that almost overnight it became dubbed "the bathroom bill." To those who instigated or perpetuated this pitiful myth I say to you that you, too, should hang your head in shame. Through your words and actions you have yet further marginalized and ostracized those citizens who testified, often tearfully and always valiantly, to the abuse and degradation they have suffered for years. For the benefit of doubt I will choose to believe that there are some among you who "know not what they do."
But, there is one group who knows full well what they have done and that is the media. The media with a tradition grounded in such fine journalism of that of Edward Murrow, Helen Hunt Jackson, Harry Ashmore and Ralph McGill - journalists who risked life and limb and their reputations to expose the whole ugly truth of discrimination.
To those among you who repeatedly used the label "the bathroom bill," who incorporated this into every headline and story lead, and who failed to tell the whole and complete story of this legislation I say to you, you are not journalists. You have served merely as stenographers to ignorance, hatred and discrimination. You should hang your head in shame for your utter failure to uphold the finest standards of your profession.
And, I want to make something perfectly clear.
To those in our state who participated in that disgraceful effort, you should find no comfort with today's vote.
Your hateful and despicable behavior did not win out.
New Hampshire is a compassionate state that supports our most vulnerable citizens.
New Hampshire believes in equality for all its citizens to have a job and a home.
That is the New Hampshire tradition, that is the New Hampshire I was born in, that is the New Hampshire that I love.
So to those who mislabeled this bill and maligned its intent, I say to you: Shame on you. Shame on you for your willingness, your eagerness, to attack these citizens who simply want to live their lives. Because of your efforts you lost. You lost because your efforts to malign these citizens brought increased attention to this very real problem and many of us were unaware of the very real day to day challenges of a segment of New Hampshire's population.
I am determined to ensure their rights as a citizen, to live their lives, protect their jobs and keep their homes will succeed. And I know I am not alone. Thousands and thousands of Granite Staters have been awoken by your attacks and they are disgusted just as much as I am.
So, although this bill may not become law today, NH's transgendered community has still won because citizens across this state are now willing and eager to support them in their efforts to live their lives as full and equal citizens.
Thank you Madam President.
Remarks by Senator Lasky as she brought out HB 415 from committee.
Thank you Madam President. I move HB 415 "Inexpedient to Legislate". HB 415 was introduced as a means of including transgender individuals in the anti-discrimination statute and ensuring that this group of citizens are protected against hate crimes.
From the time that this bill was introduced in the House until today, the simple anti-discrimination bill has been outrageously mischaracterized and worse yet been ridiculed.
The Judiciary committee heard compelling and very personal testimony from transgender individuals about the discrimination they daily.
The entire committee was genuinely sympathetic, however, this legislation , as drafted, has flaws and at this time the Judiciary committee finds that it should be found Inexpedient to Legislate.
Thank you, Madam President.
Senator Lasky later spoke:
Madame President. While I, too, voted to find HB 415 Inexpedient to Legislate, I would like to say on a personal level, each and everyone of NH's citizens deserve to be protected from discrimination and certainly deserve to feel they can go about their daily lives without fear or retribution.
The people of our great state have a history of independence, tolerance and respect for all human beings. It was incredibly sad to me to see, what I know is a small group of individuals, vilifying the transgender community and creating fear and mistrust among those who simply are not acquainted with this segment of our population.
While, this bill at this time may not have been the vehicle to give them the protection they deserve, we, as good and decent people cannot stop until all of our citizens truly have the freedoms upon which this country is founded.
"A lot of New Hampshire families have come to know people in their families who are gay -- co-workers, former classmates – and that's what really made this difference. We are no longer talking about an issue. We are talking about people." — Bishop V. Eugene Robinson
"To have no job is to have no pride. You're nobody. Where do you go? There's nothing...." — unidentified former professional man interviewed in a homeless encampment in Florida.