Supporters of marriage equality urged lawmakers to preserve New Hampshire’s same-sex marriage law at a news conference Monday, just days before the House is expected to take up a measure that would repeal the state’s marriage equality law and re-instate civil unions. Some two-dozen supporters of the pro-marriage ‘Standing Up For New Hampshire Families’ group argued that marriage equality is a civili rights issue and warned legislators against establishing a two-tier system of unions that would transform gay and lesbian couples into second-class citizens:
STATE REP. JENNIFER COFFEY (R): Under the bill, folks who are already married, of which there are approximately 2,000….they stay married. But anybody that falls after them, they’re not really married. So you got this second-class citizen being set-up and inequality of law is something many of us take very seriously.
Under the bill New Hampshire Republicans will take up on Wednesday, same-sex couples would lose their right to marry and could instead enter into civil unions starting March 31, 2013. In the meantime, voters would have the opportunity to respond to a non-binding question as to whether they agree with the legislation. The vote would have no legal impact, but would indicate to lawmakers essentially whether voters like the repeal or not. Should voters approve of the repeal, it proceeds as planned. If they reject it, the legislature would have to act again before March to overturn the measure, but would be under no obligation to do so.
Lawmakers would need to muster a two-thirds majority to pass the repeal legislation, however, as Gov. John Lynch (D-NH) has pledged “stand firm against any legislation that will strip any of our citizens of their civil rights.” At yesterday’s press conference Republican Rep. J. Michael Ball predicted that supporters would fall short of that requirement. “We put this thing off, and put it off and put it off because this is an indication that there are not enough votes to override the Governor’s promised veto,” he said. “And the reason is because there is a large core of Republicans — many of them are very liberty minded — who refuse to roll back the clock here and take rights away from people.”