New Hampshire Rep. David Bates (R) — the sponsor of legislation to repeal the state’s marriage equality law — says he’ll propose “a floor amendment to try to win over opponents — one that may remove its “religious liberty” clause if that’s what it takes to pass it,” the Union Leader reports. Currently, HB 437, defines marriage as “the legally recognized union of one man and one woman,” allows for “civil unions” that provide all the “rights, obligations and responsibilities” in the state’s marriage law, and preserves same-sex marriages that occurred since the law took effect on Jan. 1, 2010. The measure also includes a “religious liberty” clause that shields any “individual, corporation, entity, association, educational institution or society” for refusing to solemnize or treat as valid any civil union if that violates “their sincerely held religious or moral beliefs.”
Bates claims that opponents of the bill are falsely claiming that the language would override the state’s existing nondiscrimination protections, but says “I would rather see the bill pass with nothing in there regarding religious liberties rather than insist on keeping this in there and having the bill fail as a result of it.”
“Civil rights have to do with intrinsic qualities that a person just can’t change,” such as race or gender, he added. Homosexuality doesn’t meet that criterion, he said, adding that not long ago it was referred to as “sexual preference.” “There’s no other example of any basis that we afford a civil right based upon a behavior or a preferential choice,” he said.
Anti-gay groups like the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) have pledged to spend $250,000 “running independent TV ads as well as donating directly to legislators’ campaigns this year” to advances Bates’ measure. Meanwhile, the state reports that 1,887 same-sex couples have married since the law took effect on Jan. 1, 2010.
Bates would not say when his bill would come up for consideration.