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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, March 4, 2011 - Volume 39 Issue 09
Repeal effort fails - NH marriages safe until 2012
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Repeal effort fails - NH marriages safe until 2012

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

Efforts to repeal New Hampshire's marriage equality law failed when the state's House Judiciary Committee voted not to consider HB 343 and HB 437.

The unanimous 15-0 vote means that the measures may be revived when the legislature reconvenes next year.

The committee also unanimously rejected a third bill, HB 569, which would have replaced same-sex marriage with domestic unions for all adult partners, opposite-sex as well as same-sex couples.

Both supporters and opponents of marriage equality said they were disappointed in the committee vote.

'We are disappointed the Judiciary Committee did not defeat these bills today,' said Lew Feldstein, co-chair of Standing Up for New Hampshire Families, a group opposing repeal.

'Lawmakers just kicked the can down the road only to come back again next year to take up marriage yet again,' he said.

Cornerstone Action NH had lobbied for passage of repeal this year.

'While we would have preferred the legislature to take up these bills this year, we look forward to working with House Leadership and the new majority over the coming months to see that the state's traditional marriage definition is restored next year,' said Executive Director Kevin Smith after the vote.

Republicans captured control of New Hampshire's legislature in the 2010 election. Anti-Gay groups spent over $1.2 million to elect Republican legislators.

Nevertheless, Republican House leaders were not eager to open a debate on same-sex marriage.

Some opponents of same-sex marriage were frustrated by the House GOP's decision since two socially conservative groups spent more than $1.2 million to try and defeat Democratic governor John Lynch and elect GOP legislative candidates.

House Majority Leader D.J. Bettencourt decided that a divisive issues like marriage equality would distract from the Republicans' priority to adopt a balanced budget, pass an education funding constitutional amendment, and renegotiate state employee pensions.

According to the Nashua Telegraph newspaper, House Speaker William O'Brien met privately with other Republicans on the House committee to line up their votes.

The New Hampshire marriage equality law passed in 2009, replacing a civil union law which was enacted in 2007.

Polls show most New Hampshire residents favor marriage equality, a fact both political parties have publicly recognized.

'I do not believe the Democrats are in favor of reverting to civil unions, and I know the Republicans aren't,' Republican Gregory Sorg said.

Lynch has promised to veto any bill repealing same-sex marriage.

Last month, more than 700 Gay rights supporters packed Representatives Hall to call for the House to kill these bills.

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