Could New Hampshire Repeal Same-Sex Marriage Law?

A bill that would repeal New Hampshire's same-sex marriage law appears likely to pass through the state's House and Senate, but it is unclear if the legislation has enough support to overturn a veto from the governor.

New Hampshire passed a bill allowing same-sex civil unions in 2007, which were then converted to same-sex marriages by another bill passed in 2009.

The second bill officially allowed new same-sex marriages in the state beginning on Jan. 1, 2011.

However, in 2010 Republicans took control of both the state House and Senate, significantly shifting the legislature's opinion on the same-sex marriage issue.

A bill to repeal the same-sex marriage law was introduced in January of 2011 by Rep. David Bates and subsequently recommended by the House Judiciary Committee in October.

Under Bates proposed legislation, any two adults would be allowed to receive a civil union, but same-sex couples would not be allowed to receive marriage licenses. Bates has also stated that this measure would not nullify existing same-sex marriages.

If the bill is passed, it would make New Hampshire's legislature the first to overturn itself on same-sex marriage legislation.

Should the bill make it through the legislature, it will most likely be vetoed by Democratic Gov. John Lynch, who signed off on the 2009 same-sex marriage law.

Since the Republicans hold a veto-proof majority, it might seem like Lynch's veto would not stop the repeal, but the situation is not that simple.

Part of the Republican majority in the legislature is actually made up of Libertarians. Although they often vote along Republican lines, these legislators are generally not in favor of repealing the same-sex marriage law.

"I know for a fact, based on people I've talked to, that if Gov. Lynch vetoes it, that veto is not override-able," Rep. Seth Cohn told The Concord Monitor.

Cohn has also expressed concerns about the political viability of the repeal during the upcoming elections.

"I think it's going to backlash against the Republicans who, in the face of the polls, are choosing not to believe the average person is O.K. with this situation," said Cohn.

Recent polling data may suggest that Cohn's fears are correct. According to a recent survey from the University of New Hampshire, 59 percent of respondents either strongly or somewhat opposed the repeal effort, while 32 percent strongly or somewhat supported the repeal.

When asked about the poll results, Bates said, "It's just not credible to suggest the people of New Hampshire are the aberration of the nation."

Still, Bates has begun considering compromises to ensure that his bill has enough support to override a veto, such as changing or removing the stipulation that "Children can only be conceived naturally through copulation by heterosexual couples."

For Bates' bill to be passed, the House will have to vote on it by March 29, the deadline for bills to be sent to the Senate.