On January 1, 2010 same sex marriage was legalized in New Hampshire; all active civil unions officially became marriages. This year recent Republican opposition sought to see this right repealed.
On Wednesday the state House voted at 211-116 – meaning the attempt to repeal the state’s gay marriage law failed, and Gay Civil Rights activists won.
Those who opposed same sex marriage argued for a return to Civil Unions in March 2013. This law would have given any two adults (regardless of whether they are related or not) the right to join together in legal partnership.
This proposition was publicly supported by Rick Perry, governor of Texas, and former bidder for republican presidential nomination. Perry stated: ‘I applaud those legislators in New Hampshire who are working to defend marriage as an institution between one man and one woman’.
More extreme positions, such as that of Kevin Smith, New Hampshire gubernatorial candidate, backed the elimination of same-sex marriage and Civil Unions entirely. When the bill was passed in 2010, Smith complained: ‘It is no surprise that the Legislature finally passed the last piece to the gay marriage bill today. After all, when you take 12 votes on five iterations of the same issue, you’re bound to get it passed sooner or later’.
Those who wished to revoke the right to same-sex marriage argued that marriage is a religious institution, and is not to be infringed upon. There have been similar debates in the UK surrounding the introduction of marriage equality for the UK
Bishop Peter A. Libasci of New Hampshire was quoted to say that he is ‘encouraged that the New Hampshire General Court will have the opportunity in this coming year to vote to restore the traditional understanding of marriage.’
This attempt to find a balance, between the rights of religious institutions and same-sex couples, caused conflict within the committee for the early part of 2012. A bill was proposed to establish a religious exemption for individuals and businesses, who do not wish to provide services or accommodations to same sex couples. This bill would also prevent same-sex couples from being able to sue said businesses.
There has been no further news on what Bergevin (Republican), has dubbed a “business protection bill”.
Present Governor John Lynch, a Democrat, did promise to veto any effort made to repeal the right of same-sex couples to marry. However if there was a two thirds Republican majority in the House this could have overrided Lynch’s veto. In other words: things could have got pretty close.
Although this represents a victory for the LGBTQ community, it is clear that religious and Republican opposition to gay marriage [while perhaps not wide-spread] is potent. Voters in California and Maine have repealed gay marriage laws already, and New Hampshire could have been next.