He reiterated that message Friday, saying tackling the state's budget deficit, providing tax relief and creating new jobs are the top priorities. Bates said he is disappointed the full Legislature won't be voting on the issue this year but stands behind party leaders' decision.
"My preference would have been to deal with it now rather than later, but I understand leadership's reasoning," he said.
Pepino could not be reached for comment on the poll results. A third bill to be heard by the Judiciary Committee on Thursday allows for "domestic unions." The two other bills disallow civil unions.
Mo Baxley, executive director of New Hampshire Freedom to Marry, criticized the legislative leadership for scheduling hearings on the Bates and Pepino bills.
"They have decided that taking away the freedom to marry is more important right now than dealing with the state's budget crisis and economic situation, the worst since the Great Depression," he said in a statement. "Voters overwhelmingly say their number one concern is the economy. Yet lawmakers like Reps. Bates and Pepino would rather pursue a fringe agenda that hurts New Hampshire families."
Former Rep. James Splaine, D-Portsmouth, who sponsored the same-sex marriage bill that became law, said fiscal matters should take precedence in Concord instead of efforts to repeal the law.
"There are so many other things they should be doing at the Statehouse, such as jobs and the economy," he said. "I think a lot of Republicans, like Democrats, know there are other important issues."
The two bills send the wrong message, Splaine said.
"It's not the New Hampshire way to take away people's rights," he said.
Andrew Smith, director of the UNH Survey Center, said his Granite State Poll shows those who strongly oppose repeal of gay marriage outnumber strong proponents, 2-1. Overall, most people seem to have no problem with same-sex marriage, he said.