Debate has begun
in the New Hampshire legislature on whether to amend the
state's constitution to ban same-sex marriage. Several
hundred people filled Representatives' Hall to take a
stand on the proposal to add an article to the
constitution's Bill of Rights reading, "A marriage
between one man and one woman shall be the only legal union
that shall be valid or recognized in the state."
State law already bans same-sex marriage, but
supporters of an amendment called it protection from
judicial intervention, frequently invoking the
Massachusetts high court decision that it was
unconstitutional to prevent same-sex couples from marrying.
Rep. Michael Balboni, a Republican from Nashua
and the measure's sponsor, predicted that without
an amendment, New Hampshire soon would follow its
neighbor. "Make no mistake, court cases are coming soon
that will provide our judicial branch with the same
opportunity to usurp legislative authority, crush the
people's right to govern themselves through their
elected representatives, and rewrite the definition of
marriage that has served human society so well," he said.
But by midday, several dozen people had spoken
on the proposal, most in opposition. More than 240
people signed sheets to register their support or
opposition; nearly 200 were opposed.
Rep. James Craig, a Democrat from Manchester and
the house Democratic leader, spoke against an
amendment, despite his personal opposition to same-sex
marriage. "Something about it just doesn't sit
completely right with me," he said of same-sex unions. But
New Hampshire's constitution guarantees equality for
all, he said.
"Equality of rights under the law shall not be
denied or abridged by this state on account of race,
creed, color, sex, or national origin," he said,
quoting the document. "And it just occurs to me that
if you're going to add this [marriage] amendment to the
constitution, you better take that one out."
Any move to change the constitution must pass
the house and senate by a three-fifths majority to
make it to a November ballot, where it would need the
approval of two thirds of voters to pass. Rep. Cynthia
Dokmo, a Republican from Amherst and chairwoman
of the house judiciary committee, expected the hearing
to last until 5 p.m., with no breaks scheduled. "It's
my intent to allow anybody here who wishes to speak on
this bill to speak," she said. (AP)