This week, the vote we’ve been blogging about and waiting for for months will finally happen: the GOP-controlled New Hampshire House will vote on whether or not to repeal the state’s 2009 marriage equality law, despite the fact repeated polling has consistently shown that a clear majority of New Hampshirites oppose repeal. (So much for that whole “will of the people” thing…) It is unclear whether the GOP-controlled legislature has enough votes to override Democratic Governor John Lynch’s promised veto of the constitutionally questionable measure. Perhaps as a reaction to this uncertainty, the bill’s leading champion — Republican Rep. David Bates — recently attached an amendment to HB 437 that would place a nonbinding question relating to civil unions onto the November ballot, despite the fact that New Hampshire is not a referendum state.
Newspapers around the state have also been editorializing against repeal efforts, but the state GOP is pushing ahead, apparently more concerned with remaining in ideological lockstep with party extremists at the national level than attending to the concerns of their constituents in their home state.
The Concord Monitor ran a compelling editorial yesterday against the repeal bill and Rep. Bates’s amendment, written by Rick Russman, a former Republican state senator. It is worth reading in its entirety, but I’ve included the highlights below.
There are a number of problems with this, the most fundamental of which is that New Hampshire is not a referendum state. California is a referendum state, if that helps to put this into perspective. New Hampshire has the third-largest legislative body in the English-speaking world, and legislators here are closer to the voters than almost anywhere else. Taking this to the voters as a “nonbinding question” makes no sense, will cost money, and will waste the time of town and city clerks who will have to count and record the votes on a question that does not accomplish anything. There will clearly be a fiscal impact, but Bates has not acknowledged it. . .
Asked why his proposed ballot question should not simply – and more honestly – ask, “Do you support repeal of the 2009 Marriage Equality Act?”, Rep. Bates said that he likes his wording better. Putting an emotionally charged, leading question before voters and hoping they choose to support a minority point of view seems to me to be intellectually dishonest and disrespectful of the voters. . .
Have any voters been denied the opportunity to express their opinion on marriage equality? Has anyone been prevented from testifying on HB 437? Has there been a groundswell of public desire for a statewide referendum? Has the Marriage Equality Act of 2009 hurt any individual, family, business, nonprofit organization, city or town? Of course not. ”No” is the answer to all of these questions, and “No” is how responsible House members should vote on HB 437 and the Bates floor amendment.
Here’s hoping the New Hampshire GOP comes to its senses, listens to Rick Russman and the majority of that state’s voters, and votes down Bates’s unconscionably malicious, mean-spirited, hateful marriage repeal bill.