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House Rejects Gay Marriage Repeal

The 211-116 margin was a victory for gay rights advocates. It was also a shock to social conservatives, who thought a 3 to 1 GOP majority combined with a party platform that defines marriage as a between a man and women, would secure the bill’s passage. 

Deep into a debate that lasted 2 hours and included 10 separate votes, Kingston Republican David Welch stated what by then was plain: gay marriage is topic that divides House Republicans.

“This is an issue that is confusing, sets one section of the House against the other and it will do the same thing out in our communities.”

 The discord in the chamber was all Republican. Only one Democrat supported the repeal. And none took part in the often emotional floor debate.

“This bill needs to be put down, and I ask you to vote red so this bill can be put down like the dog it deserves to be.”

Rep. Mike Ball represents Manchester and serves as chairman of the city Republican committee. The native southerner compared the repeal effort to segregation. Rochester Rep. Warren Groen, meanwhile, argued that permitting same-sex couples to marry puts New Hampshire on a dangerous path.

“The next in line is a polygynist: He’s a Muslim, and he wants lot of wives. After all, he can’t take over the world unless his has lots of kids and to have lot of kids, he needs lot of wives. “

“The house will come to order. The house will come to order.”

 “The next in the docket is those who believe in polyandry, they need lot of people involved in their groups, groups of men and women, so they don’t get bored, to keep things exciting. The animal lovers can’t be too far behind. “  

 When the bill was killed the house stood and clapped. Afterwards, its backers had a variety of explanations for its failure.  Rep. Gregory Sorg of Easton said it was a mistake not to have pushed it through last year, when the repeal was first proposed.

 “You know, you come in with a big majority and have this crusading spirit and we want to get a lot of things done, but  by the end people start getting mellow, and they get to the point where they don’t want to be offensive, and they stop analyzing things with the precision with which they were doing it before.”

But the repeal’s lead sponsor, David Bates of Windham, believes the problem goes deeper than the vote’s timing.

"There is a significant number of Libertarians, you know they ran as Republicans, and don’t feel any particular compulsion to vote consistent with the Republican platform, and that’s really what I think we saw materialize there.”

 Yet the final vote was tipped by more than just Libertarian-minded freshman. House veterans and top Republicans leaders including the majority leader, deputy majority leader and speaker pro-tem all voted against the bill. For advocates of same sex-marriage like Marc Solomon, national campaign director for Freedom to Marry, which plowed $500,000 dollars into fighting the repeal, that’s proof gay marriage is working here.

 “You know in the vote to pass marriage law seven Republican voted in favor. This time, more than 100 Republicans voted against the law. And you know it honestly shows that live free or die is alive and well in NH.”

 The repeal’s defeat ends this debate in Concord until the next Legislature arrives. But expect this vote to get plenty of scrutiny during election season. The National Organization For Marriage has pledged to spend $250,000 to oppose candidates who voted against repealing gay marriage. The Republican Freedom and Equality PAC is meanwhile promising to stand with lawmakers who voted to support same-sex marriage.    

Josh has worked at NHPR since 2000.

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