News

HB 437, the Repeal of Marriage Equality in NH, is DEFEATED!

On March 21st, 2012, HB 437 was defeated in the NH House of Representatives – Concord Monitor Article

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Marriage Equality Repeal:  The “Worse Than Civil Unions” Bill

On October 25th, the NH House Judiciary voted 11-6 to recommend passage of HB 437, repealing marriage equality for same-sex couples.  The worst part of the bill is the repeal itself.  But the bill contains so much more that is troubling.

Because simple repeal is unpopular, supporters of repeal introduced an amendment which they claim reinstitutes civil unions.  No public input was solicited before the amendment was adopted.  The amendment certainly does not reenact civil unions as they were passed by the legislature in 2007.

Aside from the repeal itself, here is the most offensive language.

“Children can only be conceived naturally through copulation by heterosexual couples.  Because of this biological reality, New Hampshire has a unique, distinct, and compelling interest in promoting stable and committed marital unions between opposite-sex couples so as to increase the likelihood that children will be born to and raised by both of their natural parents. No other domestic relationship presents the same level of state interest.

Not only does this language marginalize our lesbian and gay families, but also families with single parents, childless couples, infertile couples, adoptive parents, foster parents, loving stepparents and others.  Every person whose family departs from this narrow definition of acceptable should be concerned if this policy becomes law.

The 2007 civil union legislation gave same-sex couples all the rights and responsibilities already bestowed on heterosexual couples. By contrast, this bill defines a civil union as “a contractual agreement that provides reciprocal benefits and obligations to the parties to the agreement.”  Legislation is not needed to accomplish this.  Competent adults already have the right to enter into contracts.  Same-sex couples have decades of experience with relationship-by-contract.  Their experience was that it is cumbersome, expensive, and doesn’t work.

Proponents of the bill tell us it is actually better than the old civil union statute because it allows heterosexual couples to have one of these “non-standard relationships.” Brothers and sisters and parents and their adult children would be allowed to have civil unions. A person who is still married may have a civil union with someone else, as long as they are legally separated from the person they are still married to.  These provisions were touted as important improvements. No heterosexual couples have ever stormed the State House to demand equal access to unfavored relationships, and there has been no testimony that anyone else wants these other “non-standard relationships,” either.

Supporters of the bill promise that existing marriages of same-sex partners will continue to be recognized.  But the bill also states that no court should read the legislation as creating a policy that would  “recognize any same-sex marriage or would otherwise entitle same-sex couples to that status.”  No effort is made to resolve these conflicting provisions.

Finally, the bill ensures that no individual who objects on religious grounds to civil unions has to treat them as valid either.  Corporations and entities are also exempt on the basis of their religious beliefs.  How a corporation forms a religious belief is unexplained.  With this provision, proponents of this bill would gut New Hampshire’s long-standing anti-discrimination laws.

This cruel and ill-considered masterpiece of muddled drafting defies the ideals of freedom and equality that are the core of New Hampshire.

State Representative Lucy McVitty Weber

Cheshire 2—Alstead, Marlow, Nelson, Roxbury, Stoddard, Sullivan and Walpole

Member, House Judiciary Committee

Assistant Democratic Leader

Published IN: The Keene Sentinel, Union Leader, Foster Daily and Concord Monitor

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