GOP law­mak­ers in N.H. pre­serve gay-mar­riage law

Repeal mea­sure de­feated in House de­spite Re­pub­li­can su­per­ma­jor­ity

The Washington Times Daily - - Nation - BY NORMA LOVE

CONCORD, N.H. | New Hamp­shire law­mak­ers on Wed­nes­day re­jected a bill that would have made their state leg­is­la­ture the first one to repeal a gay-mar­riage law, hand­ing gay-rights sup­port­ers a key vic­tory.

The state House voted 211-116 to kill the mea­sure, end­ing a push by its new Re­pub­li­can ma­jor­ity to re­scind New Hamp­shire’s 2-year-old gay-mar­riage law. Nev­er­the­less, both sides are pledg­ing to con­tinue fight­ing into the fall elec­tions.

Repeal op­po­nents hoped to so­lid­ify what they ar­gue is public sup­port for gay mar­riage in the North­east, while sup­port­ers hoped to re­verse the law in a re­gion of the coun­try where gay- rights groups have strength.

”To­day is a ban­ner day for the free­dom to marry,” said Craig Stow­ell, cochair­man of Stand­ing up For New Hamp­shire Fam­i­lies, who noted that Repub­li­cans hold a 189-seat ad­van­tage and was sup­posed to give con­ser­va­tives their best shot at repeal. “They blew it. This was sup­posed to be the most fa­vor­able leg­isla­tive cli­mate for repeal, and they couldn’t even get a ma­jor­ity.”

The Re­pub­li­can-backed bill called for re­peal­ing gay mar­riage in March 2013 and re­plac­ing it with a civilu­nions law that had been in place in 2008 and 2009.

Gay mar­riages oc­cur­ring be­fore the repeal took ef­fect would have re­mained valid, but fu­ture gay unions would have been civil unions.

The bill also would have al­lowed vot­ers to weigh in on the is­sue through a non­bind­ing Novem­ber bal­lot ques­tion.

Rep. David Welch, Kingston Re­pub­li­can, said he had op­posed gay mar­riage, but the time for a repeal was past be­cause “the leg­is­la­ture has given cer­tain rights to mem­bers of our com­mu­nity, and now we’re be­ing asked to take them away.”

The Na­tional Or­ga­ni­za­tion for Mar­riage has pledged to spend $250,000 to help law­mak­ers run­ning for re-elec­tion who sup­port re­peal­ing the law. On the other side, the New Hamp­shire Repub­li­cans of Free­dom and Equal­ity PAC is rais­ing money to back Repub­li­cans who vote to re­tain it.

Democrats en­acted both the civilu­nions and gay-mar­riage laws when they con­trolled the leg­is­la­ture, and Gov. John Lynch, a Demo­crat, signed both.

Af­ter Repub­li­cans took con­trol of the House and Se­nate in 2010, repeal leg­isla­tive was in­tro­duced, but held over un­til this year. In Wed­nes­day’s fight, Repub­li­cans took the lead on both sides of the de­bate.

The repeal leg­is­la­tion, spon­sored by state Rep. David Bates, would en­sure the 1,906 ex­ist­ing same-sex mar­riages would re­main valid if the gay­mar­riage law is re­pealed.

Mr. Bates said it would re­place the cur­rent “il­le­git­i­mate def­i­ni­tion” of mar­riage with one defin­ing it as be­tween one man and one woman.

State Rep. War­ren Groen, Rochester Re­pub­li­can, said gay mar­riage will open up the def­i­ni­tion of mar­riage to po­lyg­a­mists and oth­ers with non­tra­di­tional life­styles.

“We are in­deed on a slip­pery slope,” he said.

Gay-mar­riage ad­vo­cates, who have the goal of see­ing gay mar­riage le­gal­ized in all six New Eng­land states as soon as pos­si­ble, hailed the de­feat of the bill.

“To­day’s vic­tory af­firmed the equal­ity of New Hamp­shire’s gay and les­bian cit­i­zens,” said Lee Swis­low, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of Gay & Les­bian Ad­vo­cates & De­fend­ers.

When Repub­li­cans gained con­trol of both the House and the Se­nate in the last elec­tion, “some thought that mar­riage equal­ity was doomed,” she said.

“But many, many Repub­li­cans coura­geously stood up against repeal” and “we thank them . . . and all the or­ga­ni­za­tions and in­di­vid­u­als who worked so hard to pro­tect the free­dom to marry,” said Ms. Swis­low.

Only seven Repub­li­cans in the New Hamp­shire House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives voted for gay mar­riage in 2009. “To­day, how­ever, ap­prox­i­mately 100 voted not to repeal the law,” noted Marc Solomon, na­tional cam­paign di­rec­tor for Free­dom to Marry.

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