New Hampshire lawmakers will reportedly debate the repeal of the state’s marriage equality law in mid-January, shortly after the Republican primary on Jan. 10.
The Nashua Telegraph revealed today that the House of Representatives plans to consider legislation that will repeal the state’s 2009 legalization of same-sex marriage, which went into effect in January 2010. No date has been set for a vote on the measure. If successful, New Hampshire would be the first state to snatch away equal marriage rights legislatively; Maine and California saw its marriage equality laws overturned by voter referenda.
The National Organization for Marriage and other anti-gay interest groups have campaigned heavily for the repeal in the state, while the national organization Freedom to Marry has funded local groups aimed at defeating the bill.
More than 1,800 gay and lesbian couples have married in New Hampshire since marriage equality became law. If repeal passes, those couples would remain married for legal purposes, but going forward, only civil unions would be available to same-sex couples—creating three categories of legally joined couples, similar to the effect of California’s Proposition 8.
Marriage equality advocates denounce the effort to take away legal rights for New Hampshire citizens, though proponents insist that the bill merely restores “traditional marriage” as law. “This isn’t taking rights away from anybody,” said Rep. David Bates, a Republican who is the chief sponsor of the bill. “It’s trying to draw a bright line and make a distinction between [marriage and civil unions].”
Rep. Ray Buckley, the chairman of the state Democratic Party, put the repeal measure into human terms. “The rest of the country is watching. What I feel sorry for is the nearly 2,000 couples that have married here,” he told the Nashua Telegraph. “These are families sitting on the edge of their chairs wondering, ‘Are we going to be a family next year?’”
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