New Hampshire state Rep. David Bates (R) is continuing his quest to repeal the state’s same-sex marriage lawwith a new amendment that would simply reinstate the civil unions law from 2007. This is different from his previous proposal — now withdrawn — that would have instituted civil unions that anybody could have refused to recognize. Also, the new amendment would allow the 1,900 already-married same-sex couples to stay married.
Here’s how Bates’ new amendment would play out:
- The legislature would vote to repeal marriage equality and implement the civil unions law as it was passed in 2007, a change that would not take effect until March 31, 2013. This would require a super majority, because Gov. John Lynch (D) has promised to veto any bill that takes rights away from same-sex couples.
- In the meantime, voters would have the opportunity to respond to a non-binding question as to whether they agree with the decision. The vote would have no legal impact, but would indicate to lawmakers essentially whether voters like the repeal or not.
- If voters approve the repeal, it proceeds as planned next March. If they reject it — and polls show a strong majority opposes Bates’ bill — then the legislature would have to act again before March to overturn its own repeal, but would be under no obligation to do so.
Besides being convoluted and a direct attack on same-sex couples’ rights, Bates’ plan has a number of other complications. Consider the bill will now offer civil unions that would actually be recognized, Republicans will have to go on record affirming same-sex couples’ rights whether they vote yes or no on the bill, an ultimatum they might not be pleased with. Further, any repeal will surely be challenged in the courts under the same precedent that the Ninth Circuit just ruled California’s Proposition 8 unconstitutional — that once a right is granted, it cannot be taken away.
Republican lawmakers have until March 29 to bring the bill to a vote in the House without requiring a suspension of the rules to introduce it.