By Kevin Nix -
Concord, NH – Today, Rep. David Bates, R-Windham, introduced a bill that would repeal marriage equality in New Hampshire. The bill would remove state recognition of marriages that have been legally recognized by the state for more than a year.
“Since when did we start taking away freedoms in New Hampshire, like the option to marry the person you have a lifelong commitment with?” asked Mo Baxley, executive director of New Hampshire Freedom to Marry Coalition. “And why are we talking about marriage equality during the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression? Gay marriage is the last thing on anyone’s mind right now.”
According to a Jan. 22 presidential straw poll conducted in Derry, NH and sponsored by ABC News and WMUR-TV, New Hampshire Republican activists say gay marriage is last on their list of priorities. One percent of those dyed-in-the-wool conservatives said gay marriage was the most important issue for the next Republican presidential nominee.
In 2009, legislation allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry was passed resoundingly in the state legislature, was signed by the Governor, and became law January 2010. Since then, about 900 gay and lesbian couples have legally married. The sky has not fallen. And a majority of Granite Staters continue to support marriage equality.
Republican House Majority Leader D.J. Bettencourt has indicated marriage equality is not his “priority” this year. But the final decision to move ahead with Bates’ repeal bill this year is not the Majority Leader’s to make. The House Judiciary Committee makes that decision. The Bates bill will be referred to this committee, where it will either be debated and voted on in this legislative session, or shelved (“retained”) until a later date.
“Rep. Bates has planted himself firmly, and proudly, on the fringes of American life,” said Baxley. “His need to divorce committed couples and to prevent other couples from getting married is strange. So much for family values.”
The bill would, in effect, create two categories of gay people, those who are legally married and those who aren’t. A public hearing on the bill is expected.
New Hampshire Freedom to Marry is the state’s LGBT education and advocacy organization. Since its founding in 2001, the organization has been a leader in advocating equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in the Granite State.