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Has Marriage Received Too Much Attention on the N.H. Campaign Trail?

by Michael K. Lavers
National News Editor
Monday Jan 9, 2012
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MANCHESTER, N.H. -Is marriage equality getting too much attention on the campaign trail in New Hampshire?

Voters and operatives alike continue to discuss this question as Republican presidential candidates make their closing arguments ahead of the first-in-the-nation presidential primary on Jan. 10.

"I don’t think it’s been talked about too much," said Chris Barron, chief strategist of GOProud during a reception for the gay conservative organization at the Radisson Hotel in downtown Manchester on Jan. 9. "Obviously it’s an issue here in the state given that marriage is legal here in this great state and there’s an effort to repeal it. It makes sense that that would be part of the conversation."

With state lawmakers poised to vote on a bill that would repeal the state’s marriage equality law later this month, several candidates have faced pointed questions about their opposition to nuptials for gays and lesbians.

A woman asked former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum at a Salem town hall meeting on Jan. 9 whether his record against marriage equality and other gay issues would make him an electable candidate. A group of college students booed Santorum on the issue at New England College in Henniker last Thursday, while a man asked him about marriage at a second town hall meeting in Nashua the following day.

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and Texas Gov. Rick Perry have both endorsed the marriage equality repeal bill on the campaign trail. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich was among those who spoke out in support of hospital visitation and other limited rights for same-sex couples during the Republican presidential debate at St. Anselm’s College on Jan. 7. Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman supports civil unions, but he has previously spoken in favor of the federal Defense of Marriage Act.

"I wish that President Obama would have to answer the same kinds of tough questions that a Rick Santorum has had to answer," said GOProud board member Bruce Carroll, who traveled to Manchester from South Carolina ahead of the primary. "It’s probably been raised too much, but again it is an issue that you all are facing right now here... so it makes a lot of sense.

University of New Hampshire Survey Center poll in October found that 62 percent of Granite Staters oppose the marriage equality repeal bill. Forty-four percent of respondents said they would vote against any candidate who supports the measure.

Voters with whom EDGE has spoken in the Manchester area have indicated the economy and jobs remain their top issues going into the primary.

"Will a marriage between a man and woman or between two men or two women going to change the number of unemployed, fix the housing market or bring our troops home?," asked Candia resident AnnMarie Morse. "I guess those running for president think the definition of marriage is a top priority. Try telling someone who has been unemployed for a period of time or the family who is upside down on their mortgage or their loved one is fighting for our freedom that the definition of marriage is so damn important."

Concord resident David Hanks said at the Breezeway, a gay bar in downtown Manchester, on Jan. 9 that he thinks the candidates need to discuss their positions on marriage.

"I don’t think marriage is getting too much attention," he said. "The core of what marriage is, which is a union between two people, is the core of what needs to be discussed."

Dover resident Bradley Jardis said questions about Santorum’s record are "more than fair" as he stood with a group of Texas Congressman Ron Paul supporters outside the Salem town hall in which the social conservative was speaking.

"It should be plastered on every billboard everywhere that this guy is bigoted against gay people," said Jardis.

Based in Washington, D.C., Michael K. Lavers has appeared in the New York Times, BBC, WNYC, Huffington Post, Village Voice, Advocate and other mainstream and LGBT media outlets. He is an unapologetic political junkie who thoroughly enjoys living inside the Beltway.

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