March 19, 2012
By Jacob Combs
The up-and-down roller coaster that is marriage equality repeal in New Hampshire continues, with news that the state’s House of Representatives will vote on a proposal by GOP Rep. David Bates to reinstate civil unions for gay couples, who are currently allowed to marry.
Bates’s proposal has a unique twist: the law would take effect in March of 2013, but first it would go to New Hampshire’s voters on the November ballot. That vote would be non-binding, allowing sufficient time, according to Bates, for the legislature to amend the repeal bill if the electorate votes to support marriage equality.
We’ve written before arguing that any action on the New Hampshire legislature’s part to repeal marriage goes firmly against public opinion in the state. A new poll from earlier February shows those feelings haven’t changed–a full 59 percent of respondents opposed any efforts to roll back marriage equality. Marriage equality votes have been alternately been raised and then died in the House throughout the winter, so perhaps it’s for the best that a vote be held on the matter so it can (hopefully) be put to rest.
But even in the context of the already-absurd discussion of repeal in New Hampshire, Bates’s amendment is a new low. It essentially calls for the state legislature to move ahead with repeal and then conducts a taxpayer-funded public opinion poll on the issue. Because the ballot measure is non-binding, it wouldn’t give voters the ability to undo the legislature’s decision; rather, it would only allow them to express approval or disapproval, providing the legislature an opportunity to essentially repeal its repeal bill.
There is a sort of brilliant irony in the fact that Bates’s proposal flies in the face of Republicans’ calls in other states to give voters the final say on the issue of marriage equality. In New Hampshire, it would be the legislature that would make the final decision on marriage, while allowing voters the opportunity only to only weigh in on how they feel. If anything, Bates’s amendment shows that the anti-marriage forces in New Hampshire are grasping at straws to avoid the difficult reality that they are simply on the losing side of an issue that is quickly becoming less and less controversial. It’s time for talk of marriage repeal in New Hampshire to end.