The New Hampshire House rejected a bill Thursday to protect transgender people from discrimination after members were swayed by a “public safety” argument, reports the Concord Monitor.

Members voted 172 to 157 and mostly along party lines to kill House Bill 415. Openly gay Rep. Edward Butler introduced the legislation on January 8. It moved out of committee on March 19 with no recommendation.

The bill defines gender identity and expression and “adds it to the list of classes of people protected from discrimination” in the areas of employment, housing and public accommodations.

“This is an invitation, it seems to me, for people with predatory tendencies to come and hide behind the fact that they are having a transgender experience,” state Rep. Peyton Hinkle, a Republican from Merrimack, said on the floor.

Republicans called it the “bathroom bill” and asked it be flushed down the drain.

A similar argument is being echoed throughout the U.S. as municipalities and states look to protect transgender people.

“This is a bill that begins to confuse the gender differences between men and women to the point of trying to allow men to use women's restrooms, and, of course, that means sexual predators going after young children,” Tom Minnery, senior vice president of public policy at Focus on the Family Action, said in a radio message urging North Dakota voters to oppose a similar measure.

On Tuesday, voters in the college town of Gainesville, Florida rejected a proposed initiative to eliminate all gay protections after city leaders added “gender identity” to the list of classes protected from discrimination. Members of the Citizens for Good Public Policy argued that the gender clause allows men to enter women's restrooms, endangering women and children. Voters disagreed by an overwhelming majority (58%).

Butler, an innkeeper by trade, viewed the bill differently than his Republican colleagues.

“I thought we'd introduce a simple little non-discrimination bill,” the Democrat told the House. “You fear that my co-sponsors and I have lost our marbles and that we have introduced a bill that threatens the safety of our citizens. Nothing could be further from the truth.”

“Law enforcement still has all the tools it needs to protect people from being approached in bathrooms, in parks, Main Street or anywhere else,” Rep. Lucy Weber, a Democrat from Walpole, said.

Debate on the issue outside the Capitol was also heated. Family Research Council, the Tony Perkins-led social conservative group, ran an advertisement in the local media threatening lawmakers who vote in favor of the legislation.

The ad featured a postit note scribbled with the words “YOU ARE FIRED,” and urged residents to contact legislators to vote against gay rights legislation, including a gay marriage bill and the transgender protections bill.

Legislators say they have been inundated with vehement opposition to the bill. One anonymous emailer wrote: “How are we suppose to take our children into public bathrooms if you pass this indecent legislation? ... or protect them from the perverted predations of this bill's sponsors? ... [W]e are not being served by representatives, but being ruled by misfits, perverts and tyrants.”

The rhetoric got too hot for lawmakers who opted to leave transgender people unprotected. 19 Democrats joined Republicans in killing the bill.