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Same sex marriage (SSM) in New Hampshire

2012-JAN-MAR: Bill to legalize discrimination (Cont'd)
Public opinion poll.
Proposed amendment to bill repealing SSM.

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2012-JAN-24: House considers new bill to protect people and business who want to violate human rights legislation (Cont'd):

Webmaster's comments: (bias alert) Cont'd:

Although the bill was obviously written in a sloppy manner and was intended to focus on denigrating loving committed same-sex couples, there is essentially no limit to the circumstances under which it could apply.

The legislation motivated David Charns, a Hearst reporter, to post the following message on Twitter:

"Live free, but not gay: NH bill allows people to refuse service to gays, civil lawsuits would be barred: http://www.wptz.com/  1

(The motto of New Hampshire is "Live free or die!")

State Representative Frank Sapareto (R), a co-sponsor of the bill, said:

"We are concerned about clergy having to provide ceremonies against their belief."

He appears to be unaware that the 2009 law that legalized same-sex marriage already contains clauses that give clergy and their churches immunity from lawsuits if they refuse to marry a same-sex couple. Unfortunately, his statement may actually be believed by many voters and even other legislators in New Hampshire who would trust Sapereto as being a reliable information source.

Several decisions by the U.S. Supreme Court suggest that this bill may be ruled unconstitutional if it becomes law.

Sarah Warbelow, state legislative director for the Human Rights Campaign -- a pro marriage equality group -- said:

"This really would open it up so all sorts of individuals could get out from under existing non-discrimination law. Is this where New Hampshire's Republican legislators want to lead the state? Back to the bad old days of 'separate but equal'?"  2

At least in the era of racial segregation, African Americans were permitted to sit at the back of the bus. They obtained bus transportation service since both the front and rear of the bus stopped at the same street corners. But in the case of New Hampshire, if this bill becomes law, loving, committed same-sex couples could be refused service entirely.

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2012-FEB-07: Poll shows strong voter opposition to repeal of same-sex marriages:

The University of New Hampshire Survey Center released data from its WMUR Granite State Poll. One question dealt with repeal of the 2009 law that legalized same-sex marriages. Results were:

  • 59% of respondents oppose the repeal of same-sex marriages:
    • 48% strongly
    • 11% somewhat
  • 32% of respondents support a repeal:
    • 23% strongly
    • 9% somewhat
  • 8% have no opinion or did not respond.

By party:

  • 58% of Republicans favor repeal.
  • 85% of Democrats oppose repeal.
  • 47% of Independents oppose repeal.  3

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2012-MAR-01: Vote on anti-SSM bill approaches:

If this law is passed, Governor John Lynch (D) promises to veto it. It is unclear whether the Republicans can muster a veto override in both the House and Senate.

State Representative Seth Cohn (R) warned fellow Republican state legislators that passing the bill could generate a voter backlash against Republicans.  Referring to Democrats in the state, he said:

"They want this as an election issue. I think it’s going to backlash against the Republicans who, in the face of the polls, are choosing not to believe the average person is O.K. with this situation."

In order to be considered by the Senate this year, the House must pass the bill by 2012-MAR-29. 4

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2012-MAR-08: Proposed bill + referendum to repeal SSM law:

State Rep. David Bates (R) has proposed a curious arrangement involving interaction between a proposed amendment to House Bill 437 and a new referendum. He is proposing:

  1. The amendment would repeal the 2009 law that originally legalized SSMs, effective 2013-MAR-31. It would prohibit new same-sex marriages, continue the recognition of existing same-sex marriages, and restore civil unions as the only method by which the state would recognize same-sex relationships.

  2. A referendum for election day in 2012-NOV to determine whether the public wants to restore the 2007 civil unions law.
    • If a majority of voters did not want to continue having same-sex marriages, then the new law would automatically terminate SSMs in early 2013. Meanwhile the almost 4,000 married lesbians, gays and bisexuals in the state would continue to have their marriages recognized.

    • If a majority wanted to preserve SSMs, then the legislature would have plenty of time to simply repeal the new law.

One problem with this arrangement is that if the majority of voters wanted to continue making SSM available some in the Republican controlled legislature would have to vote against their own political beliefs in order to follow the voters' wishes. That would be an unusual act. Recall, for example, that in 2010-DEC, when 77% of American adults wanted a repeal of the military's Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy only 15 Republicans in the 425 member federal House followed the public's wishes and voted for repeal.

Another strange feature of this arrangement is that out-of-state same-sex marriages would apparently still be recognized. If this is true, then the new law and new referendum would be a laborious method of simply inconveniencing same-sex couple, their families and friends who would not be able to marry in New Hampshire but would have to cross a state boundary to get married in an adjoining state.

Tyler Deaton of the pro-marriage equality group Standing Up for New Hampshire Families, said that the referendum would be a distraction from the main issue that the legislators would be voting to discriminate against same-sex couples. He said:

"The very premise of this bill is to take away rights."

The National Organization for Marriage, whose main function is to prevent same-sex couples from marrying, promises to spend $250,000 to fund legislators who support repealing the 2010 SSM law. The New Hampshire Republicans of Freedom and Equality PAC is raising money to support Republican legislators who vote to retain the SSM law.

Colin Manning, a spokesperson for Governor John Lynch, (D) said that the governor would veto Bate's bill. It is doubtful that both houses in the Legislature have the votes to overturn a veto.

The uncertainty over the future of SSM in the state reinforces a statement that we have made repeatedly in the past: If a loving, committed same-sex couple wants to get married, they should make arrangements to do so with all deliberate speed whenever a window opens to marry in their state. There is no assurance that the window will not slam shut at any time. 5

A debate and vote in the House of Representatives was scheduled for MAR-21.

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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. Tweet by David Charns, at: https://twitter.com/
  2. Editorial, "Don't enshrine discrimination in state law," Eagle Tribune, 2012-JAN-27, at: http://www.eagletribune.com/
  3. Andrew E. Smith, "NH Legislature faces tough year, difficult issues," University of New Hampshire Survey Center, 2012-FEB-07, at: http://big.assets.huffingtonpost.com/gay.pdf  This is an accursed PDF file.
  4. Lucia Graves, "New Hampshire Republican: Push To Revoke Gay Marriage Law Will Spark 'Backlash Against Republicans'," Huffington Post, 2012-FEB-28, at: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/
  5. Normal Love, "Gay marriage repeal sponsor proposes return to 2007 civil unions law, referendum," Associated Press, 2012-MAR-13, at: http://www.therepublic.com/

Copyright © 2011 and 2012 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2012-JAN-24
Latest update: 2012-MAR-21
Author: B.A. Robinson

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