In a show of bipartisan support for the freedom to marry, the New Hampshire House of Representatives voted 211 to 116 on March 21, 2012 to reject a measure that would repeal marriage equality in the Live Free or Die state.
Of the 211 legislators who voted to defeat the bill, 119 were Republican. Except for those gay and lesbian couples already married in New Hampshire, the bill would have stripped gay and lesbian couples of the equal status and dignity of marriage, and instead reclassified their relationships and families to an inferior status of “civil unions.”
Wednesday’s vote continues the unprecedented nationwide momentum toward ensuring that every American equally enjoys the fundamental freedom to marry. Last month, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit issued a landmark decision upholding the historic August 2010 ruling of the Federal District Court that found California’s Proposition 8 unconstitutional. The Ninth Circuit’s judgment was followed by another federal judge finding the so-called Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) unconstitutional, and bipartisan legislative votes for marriage equality in Washington State, New Jersey and Maryland.
“Our opponents tried to abuse the 2010 Republican legislative sweep in New Hampshire to repeal the popular law,” said Marc Solomon, Freedom to Marry’s national campaign director. “What they didn’t count on was the fact that the freedom to marry is becoming a bipartisan value, as resoundingly reflected in today’s vote.”
Human Rights Campaign president Joe Solmonese said, “We thank Governor Lynch and supportive Republican and Democratic legislators for their tireless work on bringing marriage equality to the state and their continued leadership in the weeks ahead. And we could not be more proud of Claremont’s Craig Stowell, a conservative Republican and former Marine, who has been fighting to defend his gay brother’s freedom to get married.”
National Gay and Lesbian Task Force executive director Rea Carey said in a statement, “This is a wonderful victory for New Hampshire, which again took a stand for families. The House was right to reject efforts to turn back the clock on freedom and fairness in New Hampshire. Thank you to all the lawmakers who recognized our common humanity, and to Gov. John Lynch for his support of the freedom to marry.”
The American Foundation for Equal Rights (AFER) is the sole sponsor of Perry v. Brown, the federal constitutional challenge to Proposition 8.
“Congratulations to the thousands of New Hampshire residents who came together for fairness,” said AFER Board Member Ken Mehlman. “Thanks to their powerful voices, more than 100 New Hampshire House Republicans joined their colleagues across the aisle to stand up for freedom and family values.”
A former chairman of the Republican National Committee, Mehlman traveled to New Hampshire to urge his fellow Republicans to support the freedom to marry for all. In a January 26 column in the New Hampshire Union Leader, Mehlman called on New Hampshire Republicans “to stand up for individual freedom and liberty, to live by the Golden Rule and to oppose any effort to diminish or strip away individual rights, and to return to the real business of building business, keeping taxes down and growing our economy.”
“With today’s vote it is crystal clear that the momentum toward marriage equality is truly unstoppable,” said AFER Board President Chad Griffin. “As the courts affirm the freedom to marry for all, so too do the people and their representatives. The people of New Hampshire, and of this entire nation, see and understand that marriage equality is the most fundamental of human freedoms.”