Sunday, December 19, 2010

New Hampshire and Gay Marriage: The Evolving Story

The New Hampshire House and Senate, after overwhelmingly moving to control by the Republicans last election, is poised next session to repeal the marriage equality bill that it enacted last year. Certain Republicans, believing that they have the votes to override a governor veto, are intent on rolling back the protections that gay and lesbian citizens in the state are afforded. As seacoastonline reports,

Rep. Leo Pepino, R-Manchester, already has four other co-sponsors to his LSR and he's convinced that the law will be repealed this session.
At 298 House Republicans, “I think we have more than we need to override a veto,” he said.
Pepino is a Catholic who said he feels strongly about the issue.

“When I was a kid, we were all led to believe that the first couple was Adam and Eve, not two Adams and two Eves. To me, it's not normal” for gays and lesbians to marry.
He fought staunchly against the marriage equality bill filed in 2009 by then-Rep. Jim Splaine of Portsmouth, and Pepino said he's already spoken with House leadership about the repeal effort.
“I told them, ‘You are involved in the budget right now, and that's what you should be doing,'” he said.

He said he told leaders that those who are leading the repeal effort “will work on that this session and keep you posted. It'll give us something to do.”
Kevin Smith, of the pro-repeal Cornerstone Research Group, said his organization has surveyed the incoming Legislature and found most of the delegates favor repeal. Having said that, he indicated some want concessions such as language that allows civil unions. “And there are a handful, most who lean toward Libertarian, who are on the fence.”
He said he's “cautiously optimistic, but not wildly optimistic. You never know until the vote is taken in the House,” he said.
But do not doubt for a moment that those who want to uphold the law will be vocal, Splaine said. Splaine looked at the numbers and said, if those who support marriage equality can find 50 or 60 Republicans “who will join the Democrats in upholding any veto,” he believes they will succeed.
Without a two-thirds affirmative vote in both the House and the Senate, the veto will be upheld. And that's key, said Splaine, as those who support the law work to find enough legislators to sustain the veto in the House.
      In my opinion, the New Hampshire House and Senate will be in a very dangerous position if they repeal the law. First, I do not doubt that one of the 3,000 couples that have been married in New Hampshire since the law was passed will take the repeal to the Courts. As has been shown in the Proposition 8 case, there is a very very large difference between a group not having a right, and the group already having it and then taking it away. The Supreme Court has even addressed this in Romer v. Evans, saying that it was unconstitutional for the people and the government to take away rights when they were directed at a specific group and having no rational cause in doing so. I for one, cannot see how the Republicans in N.H. can claim that they have a rational basis in "protecting marriage" when it can be seen in the evidence that gay and lesbian couples have not hurt the institution over the past year.

     In fact, if the "compromise" on civil unions is reached, then there will definitely be a Court challenge, for there is clearly no rational in still giving gays and lesbians all the rights of marriage yet withholding the name of the institution. By doing that, there is clearly no rational basis, for its only a "word".

     I for one, hope that common sense prevails in New Hampshire, and the State does not join the ranks of states like Maine and California...States that will forever go down in history as States which allowed the people to change the equality rights of others.

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