Opinion: N.H. must retain marriage equality

Posted on seacoastonline.com:

"It should come as no surprise that opponents of the New Hampshire marriage equality law have filed legislation to repeal it. Such a move was expected — especially now that the N.H. House and Senate have Republican majorities.

"The law was passed to much fanfare in June 2009, setting the stage for gay and lesbian citizens of the state to marry starting Jan. 1, 2010. Since then, said former state representative and bill sponsor Jim Splaine of Portsmouth, about 3,000 same-sex couples have wed.

"A poorly worded petition asking voters at town meetings in some municipalities last spring if they wished to repeal the law never really got off the ground. The House also defeated a proposed vote on a constitutional amendment to define marriage last session.

"But now legislators behind the petition and the amendment — most notably Rep. David Bates of Windham and Rep. Leo Pepino of Manchester — are back with proposed legislation that repeals the marriage equality law by defining marriage as between one man and one woman. Said Pepino: 'The first couple was Adam and Eve, not two Adams and two Eves. To me, it's not normal.'

"Pepino is convinced the legislation will pass — and he points to the numbers that he said are on his side. The incoming House is comprised of 298 Republicans out of 400 members; in the Senate, 19 Republicans of 24 members. That a repeal measure will pass by a majority of both houses may be a foregone conclusion, but Gov. John Lynch is on record as saying he'll veto any legislation.

"That would set the stage for an override of the veto — a bar that is set very high. Two-thirds of both houses would have to vote to override. With so many Republicans in the Senate, the focus for foes and supporters is on the House.

"Pepino said he believes 'we have more than we need to override a veto.' He is also keenly aware that the first order of business for the Legislature has to be the state budget. He said he's willing to work behind the scenes and bide his time until his turn comes, likely in the spring.

"We couldn't agree more. We remain steadfastly committed to the state's marriage equality law. We are heartened to note that newly elected Republican state Sen. Nancy Stiles, whose Seacoast district includes Portsmouth, is on record as opposing repeal of the law. And Portsmouth's own Democratic slate of representatives will surely work with Splaine to get the votes to sustain the governor's veto. But it's also likely going to require — one more time — courageous and committed gay and lesbian couples to come to Concord and talk about their lives. It may be tough for them to have to defend themselves again to yet another skeptical or even hostile person.

"But as the voices from our own country's past can attest — voices of women seeking the right to vote, voices of African Americans seeking the end to segregation — minds can be changed. As Dr. Martin Luther King said, 'the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.'

"The N.H. marriage equality law is indeed a just law. And it must be upheld."

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