The Right Reverend V. Gene Robinson is the ninth bishop of the Diocese of New Hampshire in the Episcopal Church in the United States of America.
Yesterday was a historic day for the state New Hampshire, as it became the sixth state in the United States to grant marriage equality to its gay and lesbian citizens. I spent most of it at the State House in Manchester amid the throngs of supporters of LGBT rights.
There is too much to tell in great detail, but here are a few snapshots from that exhausting and exhilarating day:
10:30 a.m. –- I address a marriage equality rally in front of the State House that is full of energy, excitement and anxiety. One supporter, a severely disabled gentleman in a wheelchair (with his partner of 37 years close-by), offers me his withered hand and thanks me for what I’ve been doing.
11:15 a.m. –- The NH State Senate (the only legislative body in America with a majority of female members, I might add!) votes 14-10 for marriage equality, sending it on to the House.
1:05 p.m. –- The House reconvenes with seven bills to take up before consideration of the marriage equality bill; the waiting is excruciating.
1:30 p.m. –- Ray Buckley, the openly gay Chair of the NH Democratic Party, and Mo Baxley, Director of the NH Freedom to Marry Coalition, tell me to sit down in my seat. A young man is standing by the entrance to the House gallery, with a holstered gun and holstered Bowie knife attached to his belt. They are worried for my safety.
3:45 p.m. –- House Bill 73 finally comes to the floor of the House. The air is electric with excitement and anxiety; the arguments against the bill are flimsy and poorly articulated. And then the vote. The longest 30 seconds I’ve ever experienced, while the legislators (over 450 of them!) push their red or green buttons.
4:15 p.m. –- The vote flashes up on the tote board — 198 for marriage equality, 176 against. The place goes berserk! The gallery is uncontrollable. I am reminded of Jesus saying that “even the rocks will shout.”
4:30 p.m. –- A joyous celebration outside begins. There are tears of joy everywhere. The disabled man in the wheelchair is weeping openly. Moms and Dads are calling their gay kids to let them hear the jubilation. Mo and I speak to the crowd and to the members of the press. The word comes that the Governor is going to sign the bill at 5:15 in the Executive Council chamber.
5:20 p.m. –- Governor John Lynch emerges from his office to tumultuous cheering. He delivers a great speech, stating that this bill represents the best of the American tradition: equality under the law and affirmation of the separation between church and state. He proclaims that marriage equality is not just about fairness in taxation, rights, benefits, and the like, but it’s also about respect for gay and lesbian people and their families. He also says that this should send a message to Washington — that it is time for the Federal Government to give to all LGBT people and families what NH has given them today.
I have dreamed about this day for quite some time. But no matter how much I think about it, hope for it, and work toward it, there is nothing like the reality of it. I still almost can’t believe it’s true. Marriage equality is now a reality in New Hampshire! Live free or die, indeed!