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New Hampshire

February 18, 2010

NH House kills proposed marriage amendment

Windham lawmakers disagree on what that means

The New Hampshire House yesterday rejected a proposed constitutional amendment to define marriage. And that, one local legislator said, should be the end of the discussion.

"We are not a referendum state," Rep. Anthony DiFruscia, R-Windham, said.

But Rep. David Bates, R-Windham, doesn't think the conversation is over. He's the driving force behind a question on a majority of town meeting ballots calling for a binding statewide vote on the definition of marriage.

On Jan. 1, New Hampshire became the fifth state to legalize gay marriage. It's a distinction Bates and others would like the state to lose. He wants to see the state constitution define marriage as between a man and a woman.

But gay people's right to marry is a civil right guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution, DiFruscia said. He said he expects the U.S. Supreme Court will ultimately decide whether states can amend same-sex marriage laws.

But Bates said voters' opinions are always relevant "and we must know the views of New Hampshire citizens on marriage to settle this debate."

He had hoped his fellow lawmakers would wait until after Town Meeting to consider the proposed constitutional amendment. They didn't, but Bates isn't giving up.

"The redefinition of marriage in New Hampshire did not happen overnight," he said. "It is OK if it takes more than one attempt to restore the meaning of "marriage" to the union of one man and one woman."

Bates said he expects voter backlash at the polls when lawmakers who voted against the amendment yesterday are up for re-election. The House voted 201-135.

DiFruscia said the question is moot, the Legislature has spoken and the resolution effort is really all about politics.

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