New Hampshire’s marriage equality law is still under threat from two bills introduced in the state’s House of Representatives this January. A hearing for the bills, which are sponsored by Reps. David Bates and Leo Pepino, is scheduled in the House Judiciary Committee for some time next week. It was barely a month ago that House Republican Leader D. J. Battencourt announced that job creation and the economy would take precedence over social issues this year, including marriage equality, quelling the concerns of those who feared the repeal effort.
Despite the unease the two bills have generated among marriage equality advocates, the latest WMUR Granite State Poll conducted by the University of New Hampshire suggests that the majority of the state does not support the repeal. According to the poll, which surveyed 520 adults via telephone, 62 percent said they wanted to maintain marriage equality, in contrast to 29 percent who supported the repeal. Of the 62 percent opposed to a repeal of marriage equality, 51 percent strongly oppose the repeal while 11 percent somewhat oppose it. Andy Smith, the director of the UNH Survey Center, said he is “not surprised” by the results of the poll. Smith highlighted the message of the survey, saying "Politically, this represents powerful resistance to changing the current law."
Smith is not the only one who thinks opposition to the repeal is strong. The sponsor of New Hampshire’s marriage equality legislation, former Rep. Jim Splaine (D-Portsmouth) said, "I would suspect that a number of New Hampshire citizens — gay, lesbian, straight — will make the case that we should not take rights away from people. It's not the New Hampshire way." Splaine believes many marriage equality advocates will turn up at the hearing. He also encourages married couples to contact their legislators and make their voices heard.
The UNH survey, in revealing the wide span of support for marriage equality, asserted that the issue is not divided along political party lines. The poll found that 26 percent of Republicans surveyed strongly oppose the marriage equality repeal and an additional 12 percent somewhat oppose the repeal. While some lawmakers from both parties are confident that the bills will be approved by the Legislature, Gov. John Lynch has already publicly stated that he will veto the proposed legislation. In this case, the bills will require a two-thirds majority vote from both the House and Senate in order to become law. Mo Baxley, the executive director of the New Hampshire Freedom to Marry Coalition, said earlier this year that she thinks the Legislature will be hard-pressed to garner the votes necessary to override a gubernatorial veto. Baxley further questioned the Legislature’s priorities, saying, “Voters overwhelmingly say their number one concern is the economy. Yet lawmakers like Reps. Bates and Pepino would rather pursue a fringe agenda that hurts New Hampshire families."
Marriage for gay and lesbian couples became a reality last January after six months of deliberation. GLAAD Senior Media Field Strategist Daryl Hannah was on the ground working with New Hampshire Freedom to Marry to media train couples to share their stories of love and commitment as well as to help pitch these stories to the media. GLAAD also provided media support around the Jan. 1 wedding ceremony which took place on the steps of the state Capitol. GLAAD will continue to monitor media coverage of the proposed repeal legislation and will continue to advocate for the hundreds of gay and lesbian couples in the state of New Hampsire.