Republican lawmakers make case against same-sex marriage repeal
CONCORD – Repealing the state’s same-sex marriage law would be legalizing discrimination, argued a group of Republican lawmakers Monday, 48 hours before a showdown vote on the controversial bill in the House of Representatives.
Joined by leaders in the hospitality and entertainment industries, Rep. Jennifer Coffey, R-Andover, boldly predicted that while the bill may clear the House, repeal efforts Wednesday will fail to get the necessary two-thirds majority to overcome a certain veto from Gov. John Lynch, a Democrat.
“I have to continue to keep liberty in mind and make sure no religion trumps another,” said Coffey.
Rep. Michael Ball, R-Manchester, went so far as to say the state Republican platform was wrong in that it only recognizes marriage between a man and a woman.
“Gay marriage is a liberty issue,” Ball said. “The Republican Party platform is wrong on that issue; that’s the bottom line.”
Standing Up for New Hampshire Families, which is an advocate for keeping the law in place, hosted the news conference Monday. The timing was no coincidence, as the House is set Wednesday to consider a bill that would repeal the 2009 law that made marriages between gay couples legal.
If approved, the bill would move to the Senate.
More than two dozen of Standing Up for New Hampshire Families’ 300-person leadership council showed up to maintain that denying same-sex marriage to new gay and lesbian couples would be counter to the state’s history of civil liberties.
Greg Kretschmar, host of the “Morning Buzz” radio show on WGIR-FM in Manchester, said all citizens have the right to pursue happiness through an ideal and satisfying relationship.
“To deny those rights to anyone is, quite frankly, discrimination,” Kretschmar said. “Gay marriage is a good thing; it’s not a scary thing.”
Coffey and Ball said House Speaker William O’Brien, R-Mont Vernon, a prominent opponent of same-sex marriage, has applied no pressure on them leading up to a big vote Wednesday.
The National Organization For Marriage, which is opposed to same-sex marriage, has put on a full-court press with a $250,000 campaign that included postcard mailings to constituents, robocalls and a statewide radio advertising buy.
The Standing Up campaign has responded with its own small TV advertising campaign starring Maxine Morse, a longtime Republican activist.
Last week, the chief architect of the same-sex repeal bill, Rep. David Bates, R-Windham, revealed he will try to pair the repeal bill, HB 437, with a non-binding referendum on the matter put before voters in November.
“I want to eliminate any unnecessary obstacles that could keep legislators from voting for the bill,” Bates said. “The past Legislature passed this law the same way President Obama pushed through ‘Obamacare.’ I am ready to accept and implement the will of the people of New Hampshire.”
The amended bill would permit gay and lesbian couples to enter into civil unions, but not change the marriage status of the 1,899 who have tied the knot over the past three years.
Bates said if voters would support same-sex marriage and he was back in the Legislature in 2013, he would support striking a repeal law off the books.
Tyler Deaton, a lobbyist for Standing Up for New Hampshire Families, said all independent polls he’s seen show a clear majority of voters want to retain the 2009 law and permit gay couples to marry.
“Marriage equality is the law of the land,” Deaton said. “We see no need to change direction. New Hampshire is not a referendum state. We have the country’s largest elected representative body.”
Mary Dumont is a celebrity chef and owner of The Harvest Restaurant in Cambridge and stepmother to four daughters with her spouse, Emily French-Dumont.
“This is not something I ever perceived would happen. I find this not part of the New Hampshire way,” said Dumont, who always mentions she’s a New Hampshire resident when she’s on national cooking shows. “This does affect us personally. This is not necessary.”
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