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New Hampshire
house votes down proposal to ban same-sex marriage

New Hampshire
house votes down proposal to ban same-sex marriage

The New Hampshire house voted overwhelmingly Tuesday to defeat a proposed state constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage. The late afternoon vote was 207-125 against an amendment, which would have added a definition of marriage as a union of one woman and one man to the state's Bill of Rights. The vote ends this year's campaign for a constitutional ban of same-sex unions; it takes a 60% majority in the house and senate for any proposed amendment to reach a public vote, where it needs approval from two thirds of voters. Republican senator Jack Barnes, a sponsor of the amendment, said the house had spoken and he would not pursue a similar amendment in the senate. He said the result was neither surprising nor disappointing. "We knew that right off, I mean it was a done deal," he said. "The people is the third rail in politics, and obviously the people that voted against it didn't want to hit the third rail." The house judiciary committee last month voted 2-to-1 to recommend defeating the proposal. State law does not permit civil unions or marriage for gays and lesbians, nor does the state recognize marriages and civil unions performed out of state. Amendment supporters insisted one was needed to prevent the courts from forcing a decision, as happened in Vermont and Massachusetts. New Hampshire same-sex marriage activists had said no lawsuits are planned. Another sponsor of the amendment, Republican representative Michael Balboni, appealed to lawmakers: "If you believe as I believe that no governmental body should redefine what has been mankind's definition of the marital union for thousands of years...that four unelected individuals in the state of Massachusetts usurped legislative authority and took it upon themselves to unilaterally redefine marriage for the millions living in that state." The recommendation for an amendment came last year from a state panel organized to study the legal effect of allowing same-sex unions in New Hampshire and present its findings to the legislature. The panel's meetings often were marked by arguments. Members also were criticized for endorsing a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage before studying testimony gathered during more than six months of work. Displeasure with that commission and resistance to constitutional change unified a wide swath of lawmakers in the Republican-dominated house to defeat the amendment. New Hampshire's same-sex marriage panel was a "colossal failure" said Republican representative Richard Kennedy. "It turned into a hissy fight, degenerate brawl, and not much respect or honor for this institution," he said. "So I would suggest we are operating blind without the information we should have." Kennedy, 72, called himself "no authority on gays and lesbians." But he wept as he implored lawmakers to defeat the amendment. "If I cannot convince you, then I have failed," he said. "Kill this thing." Tuesday's vote does not bring New Hampshire closer to joining the majority of New England states in providing some form of legal recognition for same-sex couples. Vermont and Connecticut offer civil unions, Massachusetts allows marriage, Maine bans same-sex marriage but has a domestic-partner registry. In Rhode Island, legislators have introduced proposals to legalize same-sex unions. "Someone asked me earlier how I contain my anger when I hear very negative statements that are made against gays and people who belittle the lack of rights that we experience," said Democratic representative Gail Morrison, who is openly gay. "My answer was, I look to the future, knowing that the good people of New Hampshire would not intentionally harm us as a group." Even Barnes, who opposes same-sex unions, would not rule out the possibility of civil unions in New Hampshire. "I hope not, but you never know," he said. (AP)

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