CONCORD, N.H. – Gov. Chris Sununu, a Republican, signed bills Friday to protect transgender people from discrimination and ban therapies that seek to change the sexual orientation of minors.
The anti-discrimination law, which takes effect July 8, bans discrimination based on gender identity in housing, employment and public accommodations, in addition to the protections that already exist based on race, sex, religion and sexual orientation.
Sununu also signed into law a bill that would ban "conversion" therapy that attempts to change the sexual orientation or gender identity of minors.
New Hampshire had been the only New England state without protections for transgender people. It joins 19 other states in doing so.
Sununu said Friday that discrimination in any form is unacceptable and "runs contrary to New Hampshire's 'Live Free or Die' spirit."
If the state wants to live up to its famous motto, he said, "we must ensure that New Hampshire is a place where every person, regardless of their background, has an equal and full opportunity to pursue their dreams and to make a better life for themselves and their families."
Supporters of the anti-discrimination bill argued that it was long overdue and said it could save lives by preventing suicide. Some opponents focused on the fear of predatory men molesting women and children in public restrooms, while others pushed unsuccessfully for a study to further evaluate the issue.
Leaders of the New Hampshire Log Cabin Republicans, a group of LGBT Republicans and allies, said, "We want to emphasize the importance of these laws to the health of our citizens, especially in younger people struggling with their sexual identity."
The headline has been corrected to say that the governor of New Hampshire, not Rhode Island, signed the transgender protection bill.