As same-sex marriage supporters celebrate victories in Washington and Maryland this month, they are keeping a wary eye on New Hampshire, where lawmakers may soon vote to repeal the state’s two-year-old law allowing gay couples to wed.
A repeal bill appears to have a good chance of passing in the State House and Senate, which are both controlled by Republicans. The bigger question is whether they can muster enough votes to overcome a promised veto from Gov. John Lynch, a Democrat.
Based on party lines, House and Senate Republicans both have veto-proof majorities. But this is an issue where party allegiance gets muddy.
In a state whose “Live Free or Die” motto figures into many a policy decision, even many opponents of same-sex marriage wish the issue would just disappear. Republican lawmakers with libertarian leanings, a sizable group, seem especially unhappy to be facing a repeal vote, as well as those who maintain that cutting spending should be the legislature’s sole concern. Both groups appear worried about a backlash from their constituents.
Representative Andrew Manuse, a Republican, said in an e-mail that he would support a repeal because he objected to government “using its power to redefine a religious, social and societal institution.” But he added, “I really am not focusing on this issue.”
Should the repeal pass, New Hampshire would be the first state in which a legislature has reversed itself on the issue of same-sex marriage. In Maine, voters repealed a marriage law through a referendum in November 2009, shortly after the Legislature approved it. This fall, a ballot initiative will ask voters to make same-sex marriage legal again. The California Supreme Court ruled in 2008 that same-sex couples there had a right to marry, but voters banned same-sex marriage in an initiative later that year. The issue remains in court.