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Debate on
same-sex marriage begins in New Hampshire

Debate on
same-sex marriage begins in New Hampshire

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)

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