On Thursday, members of New Hampshire's House Judiciary Committee heard testimony on efforts to repeal the state's 2010 marriage equality law. Despite broad consensus among New Hampshire lawmakers that efforts to repeal the law should wait until next year to be addressed, nearly 600 people signed up to testify at the hearing. The vast majority of them were opposed to repealing the marriage equality law.
The hearing opened with brief remarks from the sponsors of two repeal bills - Rep. David Bates (R-Windham) and Rep. Leo Pepino (R-Manchester). Neither Bates nor Pepino spoke in detail about their support of the bills, but both representatives asked the committee to hold off on a full debate of the legislation until next year, so that lawmakers could instead focus their attention on the economy. (According to a recent nonpartisan poll conducted by the University of New Hampshire Survey Center, the state's economy and balancing the state's budget - not social issues - have been identified as the top legislative priorities by New Hampshire residents.)
Bates did argue briefly that the 2010 marriage equality law was passed without the consent of the people.
"I also want to make it very clear that next year, this legislation will be a priority," said Bates.
Testimony at Thursday's hearing included remarks from Craig Stowell. A straight man whose younger brother, Calvin, is gay and served as the best man at his wedding, Stowell spoke very movingly from his perspective as a former marine and self-identified conservative Republican.
"My brother was tormented by his peers until he graduated from high school and left for college. The pain he felt is a direct reflection of the isolation caused by telling gays that they do not have the same rights as other law-abiding citizens...that they are not worthy of marriage. My brother is finally happy and comfortable with who he is. I am so proud of the man he has become, and no one has the right to take away his freedom to marry. One day I hope that he'll ask me to be the best man at his wedding. Thank you."
Since 2010, when marriage equality became the law of the land in New Hampshire, more than 1,300 loving and committed gay and lesbian couples have married in the Granite State. There remains considerable support for the law, both among New Hampshire voters and Gov. John Lynch.
A recent poll conducted by the New Hampshire Freedom to Marry Coalition found that 59 percent of voters approve of the marriage equality law, and 63 percent have no interest in taking away the freedom to marry for anyone living in the Granite State. Among Independents, 66 percent believe that repealing marriage equality is a bad idea, as do 1 in 3 Republicans.
Gov. Lynch has said repeatedly that he will veto any repeal bill that reaches his desk, but given the Republican supermajorities in both the House and the Senate since the November elections, a gubernatorial veto could be overridden by the Legislature if lawmakers are unified in their support of repealing marriage equality.
GLAAD will continue to monitor closely the developments on marriage equality in New Hampshire, as well as the media coverage of events as they unfold. As we wait to see what happens in the Legislature, we encourage the media to continue spotlighting the stories of loving and committed gay and lesbian couples in New Hampshire and what marriage means to them.