News

Republican lawmakers seek to repeal marriage equality in N.H.

by Peter Cassels
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Wednesday Feb 9, 2011

The New Hampshire Legislature is considering two bills that would repeal marriage equality, which has been legal in the Granite State since Jan. 2010.

Republicans won a legislative super-majority in both houses in the Nov. 2010 elections. Observers had believed the GOP would prioritize job creation and reducing the state's budget deficit. They had thought Republicans would have placed any attempt to repeal marriage for same-sex couples on the back burner, at least for this year's legislative session.

The House Judiciary Committee will conduct a public hearing on Feb. 17 on two repeal bills sponsored by state Reps. David Bates (R-Windham) and Leo Pepino (R-Manchester).

Bates' measure, which has 11 co-sponsors, would repeal marriage equality and prevent the recognition of marriages conducted outside the state. New Hampshire would continue to recognize same-sex marriages performed in the state before the proposal would become law.

In an interview with EDGE; Mo Baxley, executive director of executive director of the New Hampshire Freedom to Marry Coalition, called Pepino's bill "nastier" because "it would prohibit all other recognition of same-sex relationships."

That measure, which has five co-sponsors, would repeal marriage equality and prohibit civil unions or any other form of legal recognition for same-sex couples, such as domestic partnerships.

Baxley told reporters and bloggers during a Jan. 20 conference call passage of the marriage equality repeal bill won't be easy, even though Republicans have veto-proof majorities in both houses.

"This is a horse race," she observed. "This is not a slam dunk for them. This is not a small dunk for us. We're going to have to crawl and scratch for every vote."

Activists and their allies have the backing of Gov. John Lynch, a Democrat who won an unprecedented fourth term in November despite having signed marriage equality into law.

Baxley pointed out Granite State citizens support same-sex marriage. "The people of New Hampshire will stand up and say New Hampshire has never taken away rights and will not do so now," she said. "When we elected representatives we wanted them to work the economy by creating jobs."

NHFTM has conducted opinion polls since 2002, which have always shown the majority of voters support marriage equality.

Baxley said she was not surprised by Republican legislators' rush to repeal marriage equality.

"We have 400 representatives, so it only takes one or two to stir up the pot because of our process," she said. "What takes me by surprise is the National Organization for Marriage spending more than a million dollars" in efforts to defeat Lynch in the last election. "In New Hampshire, that is generally not done."

Baxley expects NOM to pull out all the stops to secure repeal. She pointed out the organization has already sent a letter to House Majority Leader David Bettencourt (R-Salem) urging his support, even though "he said the first priority was jobs and the economy."

NOM thus far has organized at least one mass mailing and is making phone calls to voters. NHFTM members are alerting New Hampshire residents of the repeal efforts because Baxley believes sponsors will not want a transparent process.

NHFTM is also recruiting people to testify against the bills at the hearing. Baxley also said the coalition is taking "a grassroots approach" by holding a series of town hall meetings around the state, a key strategy given the size of the legislative districts. Each contains only about 3,100 people. Thus far, dozens have been held and have generated positive reaction.

If the Legislature approves repeal, the Republican super-majority may make it possible to override a governor's veto, which requires a two-thirds vote. Baxley believes, however, some Republicans, particularly those with a libertarian bent, will not vote for repeal.

"What we have to do is assure that there are enough votes to sustain a veto," she emphasized. "People in New Hampshire are overwhelmingly focused on the economy. This is definitely not the time to revisit this issue. It's been a year and the sky didn't fall. No one has been detrimentally impacted."

Baxley also expects same-sex marriage opponents to press for a voter referendum on the 2012 ballot during next year's legislative session.

Peter Cassels is a recipient of the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association’s Excellence in Journalism award. His e-mail address is pcassels@edgepublications.com.


Comments

  • , 2011-02-09 20:50:09

    This is what you get when you vote Republican.


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