Bill to give transgender people equal protection in NH is tabled


LACONIA — When the New Hampshire House of Representatives voted Thursday to table a bill extend to gender identity the same protections state law provides against discrimination on the basis of sex, creed, race, age, age, and sexual orientation, Rep. David Huot (D-Laconia) was the lone member of the Beknap County delegation to vote against scuttling the bill.

A dozen of the remaining 16 members, all of whom are Republicans, voted with the majority. They were Marc Abear and Herb Vadney of Meredith, Glen Aldrich and Norm Silber of Gilford, Barbara Comtois of Barnstead, Dennis Fields and Tim Lang of Sanbornton, Ray Howard and Peter Varney of Alton, Michael Maloney of Gilmanton, Michael Sylvia of Belmont and Peter Spanos of Laconia. Robert Fisher and Donald Flanders of Laconia, Valerie Fraser of New Hampton and Jon Plumer of Belmont were excused and did not vote.

The House voted 187 to 179 to table the bill soon after the session began and reaffirmed the outcome by rejecting a motion to take the bill off the table by a vote of 180 to 168 as the day drew to a close.

Speaker Shawn Jasper had pushed to table the bill, citing concerns that men would exploit the legislation to enter women's restrooms. Tabling a bill means it receives no debate or up or down vote. Democratic Rep. Ed Butler, its prime sponsor, urged his colleagues not to sidestep debate on the issue.

"Our job is not to skirt challenging issues but to engage them," Butler told his colleagues.

The bill would've barred discrimination based on gender identity in housing, employment and public accommodations at places such as restaurants or movie theaters. Eighteen other states, including every other New England state, have similar protections in law. New Hampshire provides protections already based on race, religion, sexual orientation and several other factors.

"There's a lot of fear and misunderstanding, and that's unfortunately what seems to lead the way instead of just listening and debating," said Jennifer Huckman, the mother of a transgender teenager.

Republican leadership argued that the bill was flawed and could have unintended consequences. The bathroom argument caught fire among conservative lawmakers, mirroring arguments made during similar debates nationally and in states such as Texas and North Carolina. New Hampshire's Republican governor, Chris Sununu, said Wednesday he had no position on the bill.

"This bill is poorly written and raises too many concerns," said House Speaker Pro Tempore Sherm Packard, a Republican.

Jasper had argued the legislation would make it hard for men to protect their wives and daughters if they saw other men entering women's bathrooms under the guise of being transgender. Such situations do not appear to be happening on a widespread basis in states that have similar protections.

Cornerstone Action, a conservative advocacy group that is against the bill, praised the tabling decision and warned lawmakers against trying to revive the bill.

"This morning's vote to table (the bill) is a temporary reprieve for the many New Hampshire voters who have spoken up with their concerns about the bill during the past week," board member Shannon McGinley said.

It would take a two-thirds majority vote to bring the bill up for a debate.

– AP also contributed to this story.

Free fuel for veterans

Mike Dutile of Dutile Oil has provided thousands of gallons of oil to those in need


LACONIA — Two years ago, shortly before Christmas, a gentleman in Meredith asked Mike Dutile of Dutile Oil Company to bid on replacing his boiler. When Dutile, himself a veteran, met the man he discovered he had fought in the Korean War and a week later, when he returned to tend to the boiler, was stunned to discover the man has passed away and that his widow, a woman of 90, was left with a failing boiler and an empty tank.

03-09 Mike Dutile"She told me she had five gallons coming from Easter Seals, but wouldn't get more until January," Dutile said. "I had 150 gallons delivered that day," he said, "and fixed the boiler, which I've been babying ever since."

That evening Dutile began his Free Fuel for Veterans program. He said that in 2015 he provided oil, together with servicing and repairs, to more than 40 veterans in need and a year later had delivered some 3,000 gallons heating oil to veterans in the Lakes Region and beyond., among them a veteran of World War II in his 102nd year.

Dutile stressed that the program is intended "for the truly in need" and for the families of those serving in combat overseas. "I'm the program," he said, "and I'm the boss." He said that many veterans are reluctant to seek, even accept, assistance, yet has met many who need a helping hand. He has enlisted three volunteers willing to drive vets wherever they need to go to see to their health care or tend to their affairs.

Apart from his own generosity, Dutile has drawn on donations from others, many of them longtime customers of Dutile Oil Company and including a significant contribution from Bank of New Hampshire. Likewise, he turned to the New Hampshire Chapter of the Combat Veterans Association of New Hampshire, whose members have spread word of his program throughout the state as well as contributed to its success. To serve to remote locations, Dutile draws on network of suppliers who deliver the oil and send him the invoices.

Dutile has pitched his program on local radio stations — WLNH and WEMJ — and advertised it in The Laconia Daily Sun to seek donations, which he said can be made online at the company's website, Or he said, "You can drop it through the slot at the office on Messer Street." He emphasized that 100 percent of every penny donated to the program pays for fuel for veterans who are either in need or in combat. "This is all about helping our veterans," Dutile said.

Crash victim was local man on his way to work


BARNSTEAD — An accident involving a car that ran off a straight road and landed upside down in a creek occurred less than a mile from the home of the 51-year-old man killed in the wreck, police said Thursday.

Police Chief Paul Poirier identified the man who died in the Wednesday crash as Stephen Bognar.

The incident likely occurred about 5 a.m., which is when Bognar typically left his home on Bow Mills Road for the hour-long commute to his electronics job in Londonderry, the chief said. A passing motorist reported seeing the damaged vehicle four hours later.

Bognar covered just one minute, or one-third of a mile, of his drive to work when his 2008 black convertible Chrysler Sebring crossed the oncoming lane and plunged 12 feet off the rural road, landing on its roof in the waist-deep icy creek.

Tire tracks in the mud and a flattened mailbox in the 300 block of Peacham Road showed the route of the car before it flew into the creek. Poirier and Officer Dan Shapiro broke a side window, pulled Bognar from the submerged passenger compartment and attempted CPR.

The cause of the crash is not clear, but Poirier said roads were icy that morning and there were other accident reports in the area.

Bognar lived with his brother, Michael Bognar, who said he was awaiting the results of an autopsy to see if any medical issues might have contributed to the crash.

He said his brother worked almost 25 years as an electronics assembler, solderer and trouble shooter. Stephen Bognar worked for L-3 Warrior Systems, a defense contractor.

"He was always dedicated to his work, committed to his work, a real professional," Michael Bognar said.

He said he and his brother are from Trenton, New Jersey. They moved to New Hampshire in 1996.

"His hobbies were drawing, animation," he said. "He liked to come up with characters. He liked working on old cars, doing his own mechanical work, replacing parts himself when it was needed."