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Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Proposal to repeal same-sex marriage heading to House in 2012

CONCORD – A proposal to repeal New Hampshire’s same-sex marriage law is on its way to the House of Representatives early next year.

If adopted, the 1,600 married gay and lesbian couples would remain in that status but same-sex marriages in the future would be illegal.

The House Judiciary Committee’s 11-6 vote sends the amended measure (HB 437) forward for action during the 2012 session.

This bill would allow same-sex couples or any two, unmarried adults to enter into a civil union.

New Hampshire is one of six states where same-sex marriage is legal.

Rep. David Bates, R-Windham, the bill’s prime author, said marriage should be restricted to a man and a woman and letting any two adults enter a civil union is the proper compromise.

“We have heard for a number of years that the government needs to get out of peoples’ bedrooms,” Bates said. “This does not contemplate the sexual relationship of the parties involved.”

Rep. Gregory Sorg, R-Grafton, said marriage must be equated with the procreation of children.

If that is not enshrined, then there will be attempts to legalize the marriage of three or more partners, Sorg warned.

Rep. Lucy Weber, D-Walpole, said Sorg’s comments were an insult to couples that can’t or choose not to have children.

“I think this is an incredible slap at infertile couples, childless couples, foster parents, adoptive parents and loving grandparents,” Weber said.

Critics also attacked the part of the bill that would permit any individual or business to legally discriminate against any couple in employment or housing if a civil union violates their “religious or moral beliefs.”

Gov. John Lynch has vowed to veto any legislation that would repeal same-sex marriage.

“This bill has two chances of passing and becoming law, slim and none,” said Mo Baxley, executive director of the Freedom to Marry Coalition.

Another pro-gay rights group, Standing Up for New Hampshire Families, will release on Thursday a list of those opposed to any repeal effort.

“This is reckless and a distraction from the real issues facing our state,” said Tyler Deaton, spokesman for the group.

New Hampshire adopted civil unions for gay and lesbian couples in 2007; lawmakers repealed civil unions when same-sex marriages was made legal in New Hampshire two years later.

Early on in the 2011 session, House Republican leaders decided to kick this bill back to committee.

At the time, House GOP leaders said they did not want to take up the issue because their focus was on the struggling economy and passing a two-year state budget.

House Majority Leader D.J. Bettencourt, R-Salem, issued a statement that suggested he didn’t want this matter to detract from the GOP’s primary agenda in 2012 either.

“New Hampshire has been dealing with this issue for several years and we can only hope that this compromise will finally resolve the matter,” Bettencourt said. “Today, our citizens are most concerned about pocket book issues like taxes, controlled spending, job creation and creating a business friendly environment and that is where we intend to remain focused.”

Kevin Landrigan can reached at 321-7040 or klandrigan@nashuatelegraph.com. Also check out Landrigan (@KLandrigan) on Twitter and don’t forget The Telegraph’s new, interactive live feed at www.nashuatelegraph.com/topics/livefeed.