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New Hamsphire House Bill 1319 is a step toward protecting our citizens

One of the great honors of my life has been to serve as Cheshire County sheriff for the last five years. As law-enforcement officers, our first priority is to protect our communities and ensure everyone is safe regardless of who they are. But as an elected law-enforcement officer, I believe I have an additional duty to lead my community forward to do everything in my power to keep our neighbors safe.

That’s why I always have been and always will be a supporter of the LGBTQ community, and have spoken up in support of protecting all people from discrimination, no matter who they are. I’m proud to join my fellow Granite Staters in advocating for House Bill 1319 to protect transgender people from discrimination in employment, housing and public spaces.

As a Hispanic person, I am personally aware of the negative impact discrimination has in our communities. It is hard to believe that people still experience discrimination in the workplace. I have friends and family members who have experienced discrimination due to their sexual orientation and I personally have experienced discrimination due to my ethnicity. It is very emotional, strikes the heart and is very disturbing that some people still treat others unfairly because of who they are. We need to stop this inequality and treat everyone with the same respect and dignity they deserve regardless of their gender identity.

I was recently appointed to the Governor’s Advisory Council on Diversity and Inclusion. I’m proud to be part of this groundbreaking initiative and am grateful for the governor’s leadership, especially now that Gov. Sununu has publicly announced his support for transgender protections.

Now more than ever, we need our state leaders to not just say they are with us, but demonstrate through action that they are with us. I trust Gov. Sununu will continue to move New Hampshire forward and hope that the Legislature will send HB 1319 to his desk right away.

It is important to me to completely refute the false claim that protecting transgender people from discrimination compromises safety in restrooms. Misinformation about violence against women and girls shouldn’t be used to make other vulnerable members of our society less safe.

Safety in public restrooms is important, for all of us. The fear of sexual assault and violence against women and girls is an important issue — one we take seriously as law-enforcement officials. That’s why it’s important to know that it is already against the law for anyone to go into a bathroom to harm or harass someone. The Cheshire County Sheriff’s Office uses these laws to keep people safe, make arrests, and hold perpetrators accountable.

HB 1319 is a simple bill. It represents fairness, dignity, and respect for all members of our communities. Our state should embrace and champion nondiscrimination protections for transgender people — not just because it’s a genuine reflection of our values, but because it is an opportunity to move New Hampshire forward.

Op-Ed published in the Keene Sentinel 2/16/2018

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