A New Hampshire lawmaker who has bankrolled a campaign against the state’s gay marriage law announced at a press conference Tuesday that he now wants a non-binding referendum on overturning marriage equality.
New Hampshire State Rep. David Bates says he wants voters to decide whether to keep New Hampshire’s marriage equality law or to replace it with a watered down form of civil unions that would allow any two non-married people to form a contract. The referendum wouldn’t be binding for the Legislature but, Bates claims, would settle the issue on what New Hampshire residents really think about marriage equality.
“There will be no more guessing, no more arguing or debating over dueling polls, just the actual voice of the people telling us what their will is on this issue,” Bates told reporters.
“I am ready to accept the will of the people. Now let’s see if those on the other side of this debate will do the same. Or are the homosexual activists only interested in pushing through their own agenda without regard for the will of the people of this state?”
Last year Bates introduced a measure to repeal gay marriage in the state. However, with Democratic Gov. Lynch promising a veto, Bates needed a way to win enough support from fellow lawmakers to override any such threat.
Now he wants voters to decide whether the state should do away with gay marriage, which was legalized in 2009, and instead relegate same-sex marriages to a heavily diluted civil union contract that, as mentioned above, would be open to all non-married adults. Bates has made this concession because opponents, citing California’s Proposition 8 battle, said that simply trying to retroactively delete the estimated 2,000 same-sex marriages in the state would be unconstitutional.
Bates’ previous efforts to muster enough support for his repeal measure have consistently floundered. This change of tactic, probably hoping to capitalize on a strong turnout for the presidential election, has been labelled “desperate” by marriage equality groups.
Craig Stowell, Republican co-chairman of Standing Up for New Hampshire Families, is quoted as saying about Rep. Bates’ new proposal:
“Representative Bates is now trying an ‘everything but the kitchen sink’ approach in his sputtering effort to repeal this popular law. Changing the definition and throwing in another non-binding referendum doesn’t change the facts. Bates had his referendum in 2010 and cities and towns overwhelmingly rejected it.’
“This is nothing more than a desperate, last minute Hail Mary pass. The truth is voters like this law, more than 2000 couples have already married and in New Hampshire, we don’t take rights away. This is nothing more than window dressing and the legislature should reject this out of hand.”
The group highlights that marriage equality opponents, including Bates, abandoned a 2010 push to put marriage equality on the ballot because there wasn’t enough support:
“Among eligible towns, 69% rejected the petition drive. Among all incorporated places, that figure is 71%. Even among all towns which actively considered the petition, where enough signatures were gathered to force a vote, the measure was defeated in 58% of those communities.”
As such, they say, the people have already decided this matter. You can look at a breakdown of those figures here.
Bates has said that if voters were to reject his proposal at the ballot box he would drop the issue.
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