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New Hampshire quashes attempt to ban gay marriage

A large Republican majority in the state House of Representatives is not enough to overturn laws allowing full gay marriage.

State representative Tammy Sommons covers her face after lawmakers rejected a bill which would have overturned previous laws allowing gay marriage.
State representative Tammy Sommons covers her face after lawmakers rejected a bill which would have overturned previous laws allowing gay marriage.
Image: AP Photo/Jim Cole

GAY RIGHTS ADVOCATES are declaring victory after New Hampshire’s failed attempt at repealing its gay marriage law, saying it resounds in a region where opponents have concentrated efforts to reverse momentum.

The state’s House of Representatives voted yesterday to kill the measure, ending a push by its new Republican majority to rescind the state’s two-year-old law. Nevertheless, both sides are pledging to continue fighting into the November elections.

“Today is a banner day for the freedom to marry,” said Craig Stowell, co-chairman of Standing Up for New Hampshire Families. Stowell said the House, where Republicans hold a 189-seat advantage, was supposed to give conservatives their best shot at repeal.

“They blew it,” he said. “This was supposed to be the most favourable legislative climate for repeal, and they couldn’t even get a majority.”

The National Organisation for Marriage had pledged to spend $250,000 to help lawmakers running for re-election who support repealing the law. On the other side, the New Hampshire Republicans of Freedom and Equality PAC is raising money to back Republicans who vote to retain it.

The Republican-backed bill called for repealing gay marriage in March 2013, replacing it with a civil unions law that had been in place in 2008 and 2009.

Same-sex marriages occurring before the repeal took effect would have remained valid, but future gay unions would have been given the lesser status of civil unions.

Non-binding referendum

The bill also would have allowed voters to weigh in on the issue through a non-binding question in November’s ballot.

If the House had passed the repeal measure following its two hours of debate, it would have gone to the Senate; both houses are controlled by Republicans. Democratic governor John Lynch had promised to veto the bill in any case. The House vote was 211-116.

Tom Czapieo, 63, watched the House debate from the gallery with his partner, Mike Bellrose, 61. Czapieo said he was surprised and thrilled by the vote, even though he and Bellerose have no immediate plans to marry.

“I was born this way,” he said. “I should have the right to marry who I want.”

An attempt to strip out a provision for November’s non-binding referendum was rejected, helping to seal the bill’s fate – with some lawmakers believing that a 400-member House should be able to make decisions itself.

Democrats enacted both the civil unions and gay marriage laws when they controlled the Legislature, and Lynch signed both. After Republicans took control of the House and Senate in 2010, repeal legislation was introduced but was held over until this year.

Same-sex marriage is legal in New York, Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont, Maryland, Washington state and Washington, D.C.

Voters have overturned gay marriage laws in California and Maine. A federal appeals court declared California’s ban to be unconstitutional, and the matter could yet be appealed to the US Supreme Court.

- Norma Love

Read: Proposition 8 gay marriage ban struck down by US court >

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Associated Press

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