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Same sex marriage (SSM) in New Hampshire

2011-OCT: House subcommittee passes
SSM repeal bill. Pro-SSM group organized
.

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News about the repeal process to end SSM is a continuation from a previous essay

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2011-OCT-25: House Judiciary Committee voted to repeal SSM law:

Even though adult supporters of same-sex marriage (SSM) in New Hampshire outnumber those opposed by over 2 to 1, Republican lawmakers in the House are promoting the repeal of the marriage equality law and replacing it with a system of civil unions for any pair of unmarried adults, of any gender, including people related to each other. 1

The House Judiciary Committee considered two bills:

  • One would simply repeal the SSM law that came into effect on 2011-JAN-01. This would mean that the state would not recognize the relationships of loving, committed same-sex couples except as roommates. They would be considered "legal strangers" to each other. Their children would be considered illegitimate.

  • The alternative bill, HB 437, would replace same-sex marriage with a system of civil unions that any two adults -- same-sex or opposite sex; related or not related -- could enter. It contains a clause that:

    "allows any business, individual, school or association to refuse to recognize civil unions, exempting them from state laws that bar discrimination on housing, employment, contracts and grants." 2

    Thus, anyone or any group could discriminate against civil unionized couples in employment, housing and/or public accommodation based on the person's or group's religious or moral beliefs. 1

Both bills would ban any future same-sex marriages, but would allow existing same-sex marriages to continue to be recognized. As of late 2011-OCT, more than 1,500 same-sex marriages have been solemnized in the state.

The first bill was rejected by the committee. However, the second one passed by a vote of 11 to 6. Amazingly, two Republican representatives voted against the bill!

Both bills were expected to proceed to the full house early in 2012. If one of them is passed, it would then be considered by the Senate.

Some opponents of the bills claim that they contain internal conflicts:

  • One clause states that same-sex marriages made before the effective date of the repeal would continue to be recognized.

  • Another clause states that the courts could not recognize the existence of any same-sex committed relationships.

Claire Ebel of the New Hampshire Civil Liberties Union said: "That creates a legal nightmare."

Others point out that if any two related persons to enter into a civil union, the state could actually be condoning incest.

Mo Baxley, executive director of New Hampshire Freedom to Marry Coalition, predicted that if bill is passed by both houses of the Legislature, it would be vetoed by Governor John Lynch (D).

State Rep. Lucy Weber, (D-Walpole), said that the bill is "mean-minded" and "a masterpiece of muddled drafting." She predicted that it would create a nightmare for couples entering into a civil union.

State Rep. Gregory Sorg, (R-Easton) said that the bill would not condone incest. He also repeated his claim that same-sex marriage will harm society over time, even if its effect is not detectable now. It is worth considering that Massachusetts has had same-sex marriages for almost eight years, and remains the state in the U.S. with the lowest divorce rate.

He and State Rep. David Bates (R-Rockingham) pointed out that: "children can only be conceived naturally through copulation by heterosexual couples." The implication is that children must be genetically linked to both parents before a proper family can be formed. Many couples -- same-sex and opposite-sex who adopt or bring children into a marriage from a previous relationships would find that comment extremely offensive. Lesbian couple normally use artificial insemination or adoption to build a family, just like infertile heterosexual couples. Gay couples normally employ a surrogate or adopt children.

The bill itself states:

"Because of this biological reality, New Hampshire has a unique, distinct and compelling interest in promoting stable and committed marital unions between opposite-sex couples so as to increase the likelihood that children will be born to and raised by both of their natural parents."

This is an increasingly common argument being used by religious and social conservatives who are opposed to marriage equality. However, the bill does not follow this line of reasoning to its logical conclusion by denying the right to marry for opposite-sex couples who are infertile. It also is proven to be false by many recent studies that show that children of same-sex parents and children of opposite-sex parent thrive equally.

Rep Sorg (R) said that the purpose of marriage is to produce children and raise them in a family.  State Rep. Weber (D) said: "That is an incredible slap in the face to infertile couples, childless couples, foster parents, adoptive parents, and loving step-parents." 1,2,3

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2011-OCT-27: Pro-SSM group starts campaign to stop repeal of SSM:

Aa bipartisan group, Standing Up for New Hampshire Families is organizing a campaign to stop the repeal and retain the existing SSM law. They suggest that Republican lawmakers should concentrate on job creation rather than attacking families led by same-sex couples. They have 200 supporters including:

  • John Broderick is the former New Hampshire Supreme Court Chief Justice, and now dean of the University of New Hampshire Law School. He wrote in a statement that "it would be tragic to turn back the clock to the dark days of discrimination, intolerance and false stereotypes."

  • Irena Goddard, chairperson of the Hopkinton Republican committee, described the repeal bill as "misguided legislation" brought by people using scare tactics to push a social agenda instead of concentrating on ways to improve the economy. 4

  • Craig Stowell, a Republican businessperson said that the proposed bill represents the views of a minority. He became involved in the group because he wants his brother, who is gay, to be able to marry in the future to the person that he loves.

  • Dan Innis, dean of The Whittemore School of Business and Economics at the University of New Hampshire had entered into a civil union two years ago and was married in 2010 when SSM became available. He said: "It's wonderful to be accepted." He said that he would be sad if the legislators repealed the SSM law and thereby sent a message to people that sexual minorities are not welcome in the state. He also noted that if the repeal was passed, it would create two categories of same-sex couples: some who married before SSM was repealed and others who were too late to get married. 4

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This topic continues in the next essay

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. Norma Love, "NH panel votes to recommend gay marriage repeal," Associated Press, 2011-OCT-25, at: http://www.boston.com/
  2. Igor Volsky, "New Hampshire Committee To Vote On Repealing Marriage Equality," Think Progress, 2011-OCT-24, at: http://thinkprogress.org/
  3. "House Committee Votes To Repeal Same-Sex Marriage," Video, WMUR Channel 9, 2011-OCT-25, at: http://www.wmur.com/"
  4. "Pro-gay marriage New Hampshire group begins anti-repeal push," Burlington Free Press, 2011-OCT-27, at: http://www.burlingtonfreepress.com/

Copyright © 2011 and 2012 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2011-OCT
Latest update: 2012-JAN-29
Author: B.A. Robinson

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