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NH lawmaker drops anti-gay marriage amendment in hopes of legislative repeal


CONCORD, N.H. — The primary sponsor of a bill that would add a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage in New Hampshire has decided not to pursue the measure, hoping instead that the legislature is successful in repealing the state’s existing marriage equality law.

State Rep. David Bates (R-Windham), who also is sponsor of the repeal bill, said did not want to risk having lawmakers choosing between two measures — the bill to repeal same-sex marriage, and a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage.

Bates told The Associated Press on Tuesday that he wants to let the state legislature to repeal the marriage equality law enacted under Democrats two years ago, because the process to implement a constitutional change would take longer.

“The bill to change the meaning of marriage back to what it was in statute is well on its way,” Bates said.

“It would complicate the decision for legislators if there was another alternative out there,” he said.

The legislative process seems the appropriate way to decide the issue, he said. If a constitutional amendment is used, millions of dollars in out-of-state money would flow into New Hampshire on both sides of the issue, he said.

“I don’t think that’s the way people want it decided,” he said.

Associated Press, via Boston Globe

Bates’ effort runs counter to most same-sex marriage opponents, whose battle cry is often “let the people vote,” as in the strategy of the National Organization for Marriage, particularly where New York is concerned.

But in New Hampshire, a constitutional amendment would require approval by three-fifths of both houses of the state legislature to be placed on the ballot, and two-thirds approval of the voters to be adopted.

And since an October poll revealed that most voters do not want to repeal the marriage equality law, the likelihood that a constitutional amendment would garner two-thirds approval of the voters is slim.

In the legislature, where it only takes a simple majority to pass a bill, Bates said he believes the law will be repealed.

The House Judiciary Committee voted last week to recommend replacing the law legalizing same-sex marriage with civil unions for any unmarried adults, including relatives.

The proposed civil unions law would be open to any two adults and would let anyone refuse to recognize the unions. It also would allow anyone to discriminate against such couples in employment, housing and public accommodations based on religious or moral beliefs.

The full House must vote on the bill early next year. If the House passes the repeal bill, it would go to the Senate.

Democratic Gov. John Lynch has repeatedly said he will veto attempts by the Republican-controlled Legislature to repeal the law, which he signed in 2009. New Hampshire enacted civil unions in 2007 for same-sex couples and two years later replaced that law with the marriage law. Lynch also signed the civil unions law.

New Hampshire is currently one of only six states, along with the District of Columbia, where same-sex marriage is legal — New York, Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, and Vermont are the remaining five states. Thirty-one other states have passed constitutional amendments banning same-sex marriage.

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