This news is actually a week late, but I was in NYC for the Dreamspinner Press workshop and I had other things besides blogging to occupy my time.
For those of you who don’t live in New England and haven’t been following the news, a group of people in the NH state legislature have been trying their damndest to get gay marriage repealed for the past two years. They’ve introduced bill after bill, held rallies, gone town to town with petitions and spent thousands of dollars on TV ads and campaign pledges. This, despite the fact that more polls than I can recall have been demonstrating that the residents of NH don’t consider gay marriage to be a particularly big deal and between 60% and 70% of them don’t feel like discussing it anymore. They’d rather talk about taxes and the state budget.
A little over a year ago, my husband Erich went down to the State House to join about 400 people rallying there to support gay marriage and unintentionally scare the crap out of the 50-odd repeal supporters. (Apparently, they interpreted the pro-marriage supporters all wearing red shirts as some kind of “gang” thing and said we were trying to frighten them.) The bill under consideration at that time would repeal gay marriage, but allow those of us already married (as Erich and I were) to remain married. Ostensibly, it restored civil unions, which is what we had before gay marriage became legal in 2009, but the civil unions in the bill were watered down to allow anyone who had “religious convictions” against them to blatantly ignore them, even in a legal sense. How awesome would it be if your “civil union” (or even your marriage) was conveniently ignored by a nurse in the ER who told you, “I’m sorry. It’s against my religious beliefs to treat you with human dignity. Please wait in the lounge while the doctors see to your ‘friend.'”
The repeal side pulled a “clever” move back then. Seeing that they didn’t have the support they needed for a repeal, they asked for the bill to be postponed until next year. This gave the appearance of a victory to the pro-marriage side, but it was really a ruse to give the repeal side time to rally more supporters themselves. So for over a year now, we’ve had to play politics and try to garner more support than the repeal side, all to keep a right we’d already been given three years ago.
Over the past three months, the repeal side continued to delay the vote as the support they’d been hoping for failed to materialize, but they couldn’t delay past March without the bill dying. So finally, on March 21st, a vote was called.
We (on the pro-marriage side) were worried. We couldn’t effectively guage how much support the repeal folks had dredged up and our legislature is currently two-thirds Republican, which has not traditionally been a good environment for civil rights advancement. (Well, okay, it was back in the Civil War and early 20th century, but that’s an entirely different post.) However, we had several Republicans on board: people with gay children; people with gay brothers and sisters. And a lot of libertarian-leaning legislatures simply didn’t think it worth opening that whole can of worms up again.
The vote was almost two-thirds against the repeal in the House, which basically killed it. Rep. Bates, the right-wing religious fanatic who introduced it in the first place, is determined to keep fighting, but the general public is clearly not that motivated to reconsider an issue that really doesn’t hurt anyone and brings additional revenue to local businesses. (I can vouch for the fact that Erich and I probably put a few local kids through college.)
Even though Erich and I were supposedly exempt from Bates’s ill-conceived bill, friends of ours who are planning weddings for this spring were not. Its defeat is very welcome, after two years of these people toying with our lives.