Republicans To Save Gay Marriage In New Hampshire?

Picture 26The Concord Monitor has a detailed story out today about the various forces arrayed for and against the repeal of marriage equality in New Hampshire. Interestingly, the decisive votes are likely to arise from within the state's Republican party. Despite a veto-proof majority in both houses of the state legislature, and despite an official party-line definition of marriage that exludes same-sex unions, Republicans are worried — indeed, seem almost certain — that the repeal's a no-go. From the Monitor:

"It is certainly disappointing to me," Sen. Fenton Groen, a Rochester Republican who has been vocal in his support of the repeal, said last week. "I think that, in the House particularly, we have a significant libertarian caucus within the Republican Party. . . . And there are some Republicans who differ on that within that caucus."

In order to repeal marriage equality in New Hampshire, anti-marriage Republicans would have to bring to bear 2/3 majorities against a veto by Democrat governor John Lynch, and it looks very much like libertarian Republicans may keep that from happening:

"I'm for liberty and freedom, leaving people alone so long as they don't harm or defraud other people," said Rep. Steve Winter, a Newbury Republican who opposes the repeal.

Winter, a 73-year-old retired airline captain, was Senate clerk under Republican former Senate president Tom Eaton from 2002 to 2006. He considers himself a "fiscal conservative and a social libertarian."

"I believe what people do with their lives, how they select their mates, is none of my business and none of the state's business," Winter said.

Rep. Seth Cohn, a Canterbury Republican who moved here as part of the Free State project, a libertarian movement to relocate to New Hampshire, is also against repeal. Cohn and others believe the bill may pass the House but does not have the two-thirds majority to override a potential veto by Democratic Gov. John Lynch, who signed the bill three years ago legalizing same-sex marriage.

There are some pro-repeal voices among the libertarians, too. The head of New Hampshire's Republican Liberty Caucus, Carolyn McKinney, worries that failure to repeal could result in the curtailment of religious liberties, and (in a uniquely New Hampshire/libertarian twist) that the erosion of traditional families might lead to dependence on government and the consequent expansion of the state. Other libertarians voice similar concerns, but probably not enough. From the Monitor:

"I know for a fact, based on people I've talked to, that if Gov. Lynch vetoes it, that veto is not override-able," Cohn said.


  1. George M says

    Good let’s hope these republican stand strong. But let’s not count our chickens just yet. I’m sure the church will be making rounds and if anyone will cave it will be the republican.
    They can save face, vote for it then not vote to override. They can run on anti gay marriage still and blame the governor

    It’s still messed up that the couples in NH have to go through this. It’s hard for me not to hold a grudge against the republicans even when they do the right thing

  2. says

    The headline is a bit misleading here: the Republicans aren’t out to save marriage equality (please please stop saying gay marriage when it isn’t gay marriage), there may simply not be enough Republican repeal votes to override the governor’s promised veto. Basically, Democrats passed marriage equality, and Democrats will save it, too. But it’s good to know that some “libertarian” Republicans in NH see the writing on the wall: NH citizens don’t want the repeal. The issue is closed for all but the zealots.

    A couple of legislators are actually proposing, a là Ron Paul, taking the government out of NH marriages. Let’s see how that flies with the straight folks! I’m guessing more than a few are wedded, so to speak, to those government marriages.

    There is some f*d up tea party legislation in NH this session.

  3. Ben says

    My information is consistent with this article. They don’t have enough votes to overrride a veto. But the concern is that Gov. Lynch, who is stepping down this year, will be replaced by a GOP governor. The leading candidate for governor is very anti-gay. If the GOP takes the governorship, then all they will need is a simple majority to repeal. In 2012, it is likely that the GOP’s current unnaturally huge margins of control will diminish in the legislature. So next year, we may have a GOP governor and a GOP-controlled legislature, albeit not as completely controlled as it is today. In that scenario, you would have great uncertainty as to whether marriage equality could survive.

  4. says

    The good news part of the bad news Ben just relayed (a Republican governor replacing Gov. Lynch) is that the more time that passes with marriage equality, the less will there is to repeal it. Most people, especially after they recognize that it has zero effect on their lives, really don’t want to revisit the issue. Also, the more time that goes by, the more marriages there will be. A repeal would create 2 classes of gay citizens in NH (since they won’t be able to undo the existing marriages), and that will open up a legal quagmire that no one will want to sink into. The arguments for preserving equality could be strong enough to reach most everyone but the rabid NOM types. Supporters in NH just need to keep making them over and over and over.

  5. Hampshire Ite says

    @Ernie and @Ben:

    Good points. However, if you can get the Legislature closer to a 50-50 split, there are enough GOP reps in favor of marriage that you could probably vote down repeal with a GOP governor.

    But it’s important to keep energized and focused on defeating it each time it comes up. I honestly think it’s possible it could be outrightly defeated this time if enough people make their voices heard.

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