The New Hampshire Union Leader is reporting that New Hampshire House members yesterday soundly defeated two efforts by conservatives to roll back gay marriage laws in the state.
The House voted by a wide margin, 201-135, against a constitutional amendment that defined marriage as between one man and one woman. It later defeated a proposed repeal of the state's new marriage, 210-109.
New Hampshire's gay marriage laws passed last year and took effect Jan. 1, two years after civil unions became legal. The laws allow same-sex couples in civil unions to convert their relationship to marriage this year, or wait until the conversion becomes automatic on Jan. 1, 2011.
The amendment, CACR 28, fell short of a simple majority, and far below the three-fifths majority -- 238 votes -- it needed to advance to the Senate. It could not have taken effect without a two-third majority among voters this fall.
Sponsors tried to delay the vote on the amendment until March 17. That would have given local voters at town meetings next month time to weigh in on warrant articles that ask for a general election vote on the amendment.
"All we're trying to do here is put this on the ballot," said Rep. David Bates, R-Windham, arguing voters should have their say. His effort to delay a vote fell short on a 191-148 vote. The House killed the gay marriage repeal after only a half-hour of debate, voting by a 2-1 margin to adopt a Judiciary Committee recommendation.
Opponents of HB 1590 said it would be wrong to back-track and to deny gays and lesbians the equal rights they fought for the state to recognize.
Rep. Robert Thompson, D-Manchester, argued against the amendment.
"We already have loving, committed same-sex marriage couples in New Hampshire. There has been no detrimental impact to anyone," he said.
Thompson, who married his gay partner on Jan. 2, asked the House, "How has my marriage impacted upon your marriage, or how has it diminished the value of your marriage?"
He said the repeal bill, "is about taking rights away, plain and simple."
Those who pushed the repeal bill said gay marriage flies in the face of common and natural law.
Rep. John Cebrowski, R-Bedford said no gay partnership can be considered a true marriage. Calling the notion "a cruel joke," he compared it to a child playing at princess or Star Wars.
He argued, "The vast majority of adults out there know marriage is between man and women. To engage in this flight of imagination ... with adults is downright cruel. It's cruel and I don't like it."
Rep. Al Baldasaro, R-Londonderry, prime sponsor of HB 1590, said society should not bend to demands by gay couples.
"Homosexuals can change their sexual preference at any time," he argued.
Bill co-sponsor Rep. Jordon Ulery, R-Hudson, argued: "This is absolutely not an issue of equal rights. This is a question of being open to procreation. This is an issue of natural law."
Rep. Lucy Weber, D-Walpole, and Rep. Gary Richardson, D-Hopkinton, said that the bill would deny religious freedom to members of churches that sanction gay marriages.
Kevin Smith of the conservative Cornerstone Policy Research group said the day's votes say to him, "This legislature is just completely out of touch with the will of the people." He said voters in November will reject those who vote with "the radical, far-left lobby."
Mo Baxley, of N.H. Freedom to Marry Coalition responded: "New Hampshire does not support discrimination or different laws for different types of people The vast majority of people wish their families to be healthy and secure and wish this for their neighbors as well.