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February 14, 2011

NH weighs same-sex marriage repeal

Hearings are scheduled in the Legislature this week to repeal the state's same-sex marriage law. But two new polls say the majority of New Hampshire residents surveyed want it to remain intact.

Bills sponsored by Rep. David Bates, R-Windham, and Rep. Leo Pepino, R-Manchester, would derail the 2-year-old law. Polls just released by the University of New Hampshire Survey Center and New Hampshire Freedom to Marry indicate many Granite Staters oppose a repeal.

The Survey Center poll shows 62 percent of the 520 adults surveyed are against a repeal, including 51 percent who are strongly opposed, while 29 percent back the move. Nine percent were neutral, according to the poll, conducted between Jan. 27 and Feb. 6.

The poll by New Hampshire Freedom to Marry said 63 percent oppose efforts to prohibit gay marriage, while 23 percent support a repeal. The poll of 622 voters was conducted between Jan. 30 and Feb. 3 by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research.

But Bates said Friday he remains confident his legislation, House Bill 437, will pass in the House and Senate, but face a veto by Gov. John Lynch. House Judiciary Committee hearings on his bill and the proposal filed by Pepino are scheduled for Thursday morning in Concord.

Bates said he doesn't place a lot of faith in telephone surveys when voters have already spoken on the issue. Last year, residents across the state voted in favor of a chance to vote on a constitutional amendment that defines marriage as between a man and a woman.

It was a nonbinding question on ballots in many towns, including Danville, Hampstead, Kingston, Londonderry, Newton, Pelham, Plaistow, Sandown and Windham.

"I find this more meaningful than any telephone survey," the Windham lawmaker said. "I put a lot more stock in actual votes that you cast."

House Majority Leader D.J. Bettencourt, R-Salem, has said the same-sex marriage issue won't be a priority for legislators this session because of important fiscal issues that must be addressed first.

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