New Hampshire Lawmakers Mount Attack on Gay Married Families
Lawmakers in New Hampshire have mounted an attack on marriage--but only in cases where it’s between two people of the same gender.
Supporters of a push by state Republican lawmakers to rescind marriage rights and reduce the status of same-sex married couples in the state to civil unions say that marriage should not have been "redefined" in the first place, but critics allege that the anti-gay legislative push is a diversionary tactic meant to deflect attention from the far more difficult and truly troubling economic situation.
Marriage equality has been legal in New Hampshire since 2009. But the state’s Republican lawmakers have targeted same-sex married couples with a bill to repeal marriage rights for gay and lesbian families. In its place, same-sex couples--as well as straight couples and even related individuals--could enter into a form of civil union that essentially would be a legal contract providing some economic protections, but none of the social status of marriage.
The House Judiciary Committee took the bill up on Oct. 25, reported Seacoast Online.com that same day.
The bill’s sponsor, State Rep. David Bates, a Republican, told the media that marriage equality "redefined" marriage and should be revoked.
"I, and many people in New Hampshire, believe that those who pushed through this law in 2009 simply did not have the right to redefine marriage for our entire society," Bates told the press.
Democratic former State Rep. Jim Splaine, who sponsored the bill that granted gay and lesbian families in the state the right to wed, fired back with a denunciation of the attempt to yank existing rights from the hands of a minority group.
"We usually don’t take rights away from people once they’ve been given to them," Splaine noted in comments to the media. "That’s not the American way."
Splaine also suggested that the attack on gay and lesbian families was nothing more than a politically expedient way for lawmakers to appear to be tending to the business of government while deflecting attention from far more pressing issues.
"We need to be focused on jobs and restoring the economy," Splaine told the press.
Bates dismissed the insinuation, and pointed to the 31 states where voters have put marriage equality out of reach of same-sex couples by approving ballot measures that amended the constitutions of those states.
"It’s abundantly clear that my friends like Jim Splaine and like Granite State Progress are trying to convince the public that everyone is in favor of this," Bates said. "That’s not the reality that has been demonstrated across the country."
Bates went on to say, "I have no apologies for my current efforts to correct a bad policy decision."
But an Oct. 25 ThinkProgress article posited that equality opponents were out to harm gay families, and suggested that the bill revoking marriage equality was only the first step in a larger agenda to strip all protections from same-sex couples and their children. Moreover, ThinkProgress identified the main motive behind the bill as anti-gay animus.
The ThinkProgress article examined a statement from the leader of an anti-gay organization pushing for the rollback of gay family rights in the state. Kevin Smith of Cornerstone Action, in comments on the bill, had stated that neither supporters nor opponents of marriage equality were likely to be happy with the bill’s provisions, but also indicated that the bill was only seeking to reverse the rights of sexual minorities to the extent that is presently possible, with further curtailments of their liberties to come later.
"Our opponents didn’t go for everything all in one bite, either," Smith said. "While some people may want a complete restoration of marriage, and also having no civil unions or anything like mutual beneficiaries, the political reality is I don’t think that’s possible at this time.
"The bill isn’t perfect--no bill is--but I still think this is a step in the right direction," Smith added. "There will be people on both sides who won’t be happy with it, which perhaps means we’ve struck the right balance."
But ThinkProgress, in analyzing Smith’s statement, did not find a "right balance" so much as a de facto admission that anti-gay groups and their politicians were launching a multi-step plan to deprive gays of further rights and protections.
"Smith is admitting not only that they are advocating for inequality, but also that they have no compelling reason to do so other than animus," the ThinkProgress article claimed. "He and his followers won’t be ’happy’ until same-sex families are stripped of all protections, not just some."
Good As You posted a similar analysis of Smith’s comments on Oct. 25.
"Right, Kevin, pro-equality activists weren’t able to get everything in one swoop," the As Good As You article said. "But the difference: Whereas the push for greater parity under the law is a reasoned, principled journey towards remedying past slights and therefore meant to persevere through whatever vestigial limitations remain after so many generations of discrimination, this contrived push to snatch away certain citizens’ daily obtained, duly deserve[d] rights is a cruel and crude slap in the face that exacerbates rather than remedies a problem.
"There is no possible way for heightened bias to be a step in the right direction. It’s very existence is a backslide!"
The article called the measure "a needless, time-wasting, wantonly regressive bill," and noted, "Here we have a marriage system that has harmed absolutely no one and has benefited many" but was nonetheless being attacked even though the state faces "actual problems that need actual remedies," a situation that, the article said, served as evidence that "this anti-equality fight goes well beyond our opposition movement’s stated goals."
As Good As You also pointed out that Cornerstone promotes so-called "reparative therapy," a religiously based methodology that promises to "cure" gays by "converting" them into heterosexuals.
Mental health experts warn that reparative therapy is not only ineffectual, but poses risks for harm to those who undergo it. Because gays do not suffer from a sexual pathology, no "cure" is possible, experts say; but when no cure manifests itself, gays who have been driven to reparative therapy by social and familial pressure are at risk for deep emotional trauma.
The notion that gays "choose" or can be "cured" of homosexuality is under increasing challenge as social acceptance climbs and scientific evidence accumulates that gays are correct in saying that their romantic inclinations are innate and ineradicable. Even evangelicals and "ex-gay" leaders have begun to lost interest in reparative therapy, with one prominent "ex-gay" leader recently admitting that in his 22 years at the head of "ex-gay" group Love in Action, he had never seen any gay man--including himself--become heterosexual.
But for those with anti-gay views and hostile sentiments toward sexual minorities, the perception that those who are sexually and romantically attracted to others suffer from some form of disease remains deeply rooted. At conservative chat site FreeRepublic.com, where gay news is dissected on a regular basis, extreme animus toward gays was on display.
"Perverts deserve no special treatment except from a pyschologist [sic]," one individual posted, seemingly as a comment on the idea of legal and social equality for GLBTs.
Another chat participant seemingly promoted the idea of criminalizing sexual contact between consenting adults, and took the opportunity to reiterate a long-standing anti-gay myth: That gays prey on the young.
"Most problems with queers began when the behavior was in fact, decriminalized," wrote the chat participant. "Having lived in the Bay Area of San Fran for 6 years I witnessed the rampant same-sex molestation of little boys routinely."
Well over 90% of pedophiles identify as heterosexual. However, no state government has, as yet, placed the marriage rights of mixed-gender couples on a ballot based on that fact.
Others in the chat thread struck a more libertarian tone.
"The state should not be involved in marriages," one individual posted. "It’s a church function. I can understand civil unions for purposes of contracts and ownership and stuff like that. Other than that it’s not the government’s business."
"Letting the government into marriage was the stupidest thing we ever did," agreed another. "They have NO business in marriage.
"HOLY MATRIMONY is a thing for the church. Get the state out of the church."
But others saw marriage as a place in the lives of private citizens where the government’s involvement was necessary.
"The government MUST define marriages because, eventually, they MUST enforce marriages," argued one individual.
If the bill in its current form should eventually be approved, it will allow gay and lesbian families that are already legally wed to remain so. But any same-sex couples that miss the window of opportunity will find themselves without legal recourse, save for the civil unions proposed by the bill.
The measure is likely to pass the committee, but the process to put the rights of gay and lesbian families before voters would be far from complete at that point.
Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Assistant Arts Editor, writing about film, theater, food and drink, and travel, as well as contributing a column. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.