NH Legislator: Return to Civil Unions
The sponsor of a bill to repeal New Hampshire’s gay marriage law proposed Tuesday to replace it with the civil unions law enacted in 2007 and putting a nonbinding question on the ballot asking voters if that is what they want.
State Rep. David Bates, a Windham Republican, told The Associated Press his proposal would repeal gay marriage effective March 31, 2013. He said if voters say they want to keep civil unions for homosexuals, gay marriage would be repealed. He said if voters object to repealing gay marriage, lawmakers would have time to stop the repeal from taking effect.
The civil unions law enacted in 2007 was considered by gay marriage supporters to be marriage in all but name. Bates’ proposal is intended to return to that law by giving same-sex couples the contractual protections of marriage.
"From my perspective, this is not intended to be a substitute or mimic of marriage," he said.
Bates said he will offer the proposal as an amendment to his bill when it comes to the House floor for a vote next week.
Bates said his amendment will satisfy some critics who said his original proposal failed to ensure the almost 1,900 existing same-sex marriages would not be affected if the law is repealed. The amendment specifically states their marriages will not be affected.
It is Bates’ second amendment to the bill that is being heavily lobbied by both sides. Both sides also are promising to raise money to support lawmakers sympathetic to their cause in the fall elections. The National Organization for Marriage has pledged to spend $250,000 to help lawmakers 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 the law.
New Hampshire polls show a majority oppose repealing the law. Bates disputes their accuracy.
Democratic Gov. John Lynch has repeatedly said he will veto attempts by the Republican-controlled Legislature to repeal the law, which he signed in 2009 and took effect in 2010. New Hampshire enacted civil unions in 2007 for same-sex couples and two years later replaced that law with the marriage law. Lynch also signed the civil unions law which was in effect in 2008 and 2009.
Repeal opponents, including some Republican lawmakers, believe the vote to pass the bill in the House will be close. They believe if it passes and is vetoed, they have the votes to sustain a veto. It takes a two-thirds vote of those present and voting to override a veto.
On the other hand, Bates said he believes the law will be repealed, especially with his newest proposal.
"You have to deal with the realities of trying to reach consensus," he told The AP about the changes he made.
He said the "million dollar question is whether (the bill) will get 67 percent" -- the two-thirds needed in each chamber to override a Lynch veto.
Republican leaders have until March 29 to bring the bill to a vote in the House to avoid needing a supermajority to suspend rules. If the House passes the repeal bill, it would go to the Senate. Bates said a vote would be scheduled next week.