By: Chuck Colbert/TRT Reporter–
In a surprise move, the Republican-dominated House of Representatives in New Hampshire defeated an effort to repeal the state’s nearly two-year-old marriage equality law.
The vote against the repeal measure was 211 – 116. It came after two hours of debate and is a major victory for advocates of same-sex marriage.
Democratic Governor John Lynch, who signed marriage equality into law in 2009, vowed he would veto rollback legislation. And recent public opinion polling in the state showed strong support for equal marriage and against repeal — as high as 62 percent against repeal.
But some lawmakers remained resolute in their turn-back-the-clock efforts. State Representative David Bates proposed placing a non-binding referendum on the November ballot, which would have downgraded same-sex marriage to civil unions.
Lawmakers rejected that provision of the repeal bill, which stated, “Shall New Hampshire law allow civil unions for same-sex couples and define marriage as the union of one man and one woman?”
It fell short by a 162 – 188 vote.
For some time, national anti-gay organizations had eyed New Hampshire, hoping to reverse equal-marriage rights insofar as the 2010 election results gave the GOP commanding control of the state’s House and Senate.
Beforehand, the Democrats held slim margins in both chambers. In June 2009 the Senate passed the marriage equality measure by a 14-10 vote, as did the House by a 198-176 margin.
But after the Republicans’ success in flipping the legislature, leadership from the National Organization for Marriage boasted it would be able to muster the vote of two-thirds of both the House of Representatives and the Senate — enough to override the promised veto by Gov. Lynch.
After yesterday’s win, March 21, marriage equality backers heaved a sigh of relief, especially with the vote’s substantial margin.
“Today is a banner day for the freedom to marry,” said Craig Stowell, co-chair of Standing Up for New Hampshire Families, an advocacy group that led efforts against repeal, in a written statement.
“Our opponents have been crowing about getting their two-thirds, but in the end, it’s clear they couldn’t muster the votes,” said Stowell, a conservative, a Republican, and a former Marine.
“This is a victory for our supporters — the majority of Granite Staters who oppose any roll back of marriage equality — because they reached out time and again and told lawmakers to leave this law alone,” Stowell said.
“This was our opponents’ best shot, and they blew it,” he added. “This was supposed to be the most favorable legislative climate for repeal, and they couldn’t even get a majority.”
More than 100 of 296 Republican House members of voted against repeal.
Leadership from national and local advocacy groups celebrated GOP support for marriage equality.
“Today’s big victory is a testament to the bipartisan groundswell throughout the state to keep the popular marriage law on the books,” said Joe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign, in a statement.
“This victory was made possible by Republicans and conservatives standing up for freedom and family. Clearly, Granite Staters believe this is a settled issue, and it’s time to move on,” he added.
Lee Swislow, executive director of Boston-based Gay & Lesbian Advocated & Defenders, voiced similar sentiments. “Today’s victory affirmed the equality of New Hampshire’s gay and lesbian citizens,” she said.
“After the last election where Republicans gained control of both the House and the Senate, some thought that marriage equality was doomed. But many, many Republicans courageously stood up against repeal,” said Swislow.
Gay GOP partisans also cheered the legislative victory. “The people of New Hampshire have lived up to their motto of ‘Live Free or Die’ by standing strong to preserve the freedom to marry,” said R. Clarke Cooper, Log Cabin Republicans executive director.
“Log Cabin Republicans celebrate the fact that this historic vote happened in a legislature with not just a Republican majority, but a super-majority,” he added.
For his part, Marc Solomon, national campaign director for The Freedom to Marry, said, “Our opponents tried to abuse the 2010 Republican legislative sweep in New Hampshire to repeal the popular law. What they didn’t count on was the fact that the freedom to marry is becoming a bipartisan value, as resoundingly reflected in today’s vote.”
An estimated 1,900 same-sex couples have gotten married since January 2010 when the marriage equality law took effect. The repel bill, which lawmakers defeated, stipulated that those same-sex couples would continue to recognized by the state as married.
Copyright ©2012 Chuck Colbert. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.