N.H. Lawmakers to Vote on Marriage Equality Repeal Bill

by Michael K. Lavers

National News Editor

Thursday March 15, 2012

New Hampshire lawmakers are scheduled to vote on March 21 on a measure that would repeal the state's marriage equality law.

The expected vote in the New Hampshire House of Representatives will take place a little more than a week after state Rep. David Bates (R-Windham) said he will add an amendment to House Bill 437 that would ask voters in a non-binding referendum whether they support the reinstatement of the state's civil unions law that took effect in 2007. Craig Stowell, chair of Standing Up for New Hampshire Families, described the proposal as a "desperate, last minute Hail Mary pass" to garner support for the measure.

A WMUR/University of New Hampshire Survey Center poll in early February found that 59 percent of state residents oppose HB 437. Forty-four percent of respondents who took part in a similar survey last October said they are more likely to vote against a candidate who supports the repeal of the state's marriage equality law.

Standing Up for New Hampshire Families announced earlier today that state lawmakers have received nearly 18,000 direct calls or e-mails from HB 437 opponents.

"These numbers are impressive, but not surprising," said Stowell. "Most people are stunned that the legislature is considering repealing this law and taking rights away from our families, friends and neighbors. People want to help, they want to be heard and most of all, they want the Legislature to get back to work on issues that really matter in these challenging economic times."

New Hampshire is among eight states and the District of Columbia where same-sex couples can either marry or will soon be able to legally tie the knot.

Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley on March 1 signed his state's marriage equality bill into law, while Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire in February enacted a measure that will allow nuptials for gays and lesbians in the Evergreen State. New Jersey lawmakers also approved a marriage equality bill last month, but Gov. Chris Christie vetoed it.

New Hampshire Sen. Jeanne Shaheen is among the nearly two dozen U.S. senators who have endorsed a proposal to add marriage equality to the Democratic Party's 2012 platform. She is scheduled to attend a fundraiser for Standing Up for New Hampshire Families alongside former Republican National Committee Chair Ken Mehlman and others in Washington, D.C., on Friday.

Meanwhile, the New Hampshire House earlier on Thursday voted 246-85 against a bill that would have allowed business owners or their employees to refuse accommodations and other wedding-related services to same-sex couples because of their religious or moral objections. The New Hampshire Union Leader reported that House Deputy Majority Leader Shawn Jasper (R-Hudson) was among the several Republican lawmakers who spoke against House Bill 1264 before the vote.

Governor John Lynch, who signed the state's marriage equality law in 2009, has vowed to veto HB 437.

Based in Washington, D.C., Michael K. Lavers has appeared in the New York Times, BBC, WNYC, Huffington Post, Village Voice, Advocate and other mainstream and LGBT media outlets. He is an unapologetic political junkie who thoroughly enjoys living inside the Beltway.