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
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
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.
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