Vote to Repeal Same-Sex Marriage Fails in NH; 'Victory' Credited to GOP

The New Hampshire House of Representatives voted 211-116 Wednesday to reject an effort to repeal the state's 2009 marriage equality law, and while same-sex marriage supporters are cheering their Republican lawmakers, a defense of marriage organization has promised that legislators will be held accountable for their votes.

"We are very disappointed in the failure of the New Hampshire House of Representatives to pass compromise legislation restoring marriage and providing for civil unions for same-sex couples. This was the law prior to marriage being hijacked by legislators who accepted hundreds of thousands in campaign contributions from gay marriage supporters without ever telling voters they intended to redefine marriage," National Organization for Marriage (NOM) President Brian Brown declared in a statement.

NOM had pledged to spend $250,000 to help lawmakers running for re-election who supported repealing the law. The motion looked to overturn the same-sex marriage bill in March 2013 and replace it with a civil union law that had been in place in 2008 and 2009. Same-sex marriages that occurred before the repeal took effect would not have been voided, but future gay unions would have only had the option of civil unions.

The June 2009 victory, in which New Hampshire's same-sex marriage law was adopted in a 14-10 vote in the State Senate and by a 198-176 margin in the House, was considered by some to be under threat, because in 2009 Democrats held both chambers, but the House and Senate are now both dominated by Republicans -- with 293-105 and 19-5 majorities, respectively.

A number of members of the GOP party, however, stood up for the marriage equality bill, which enjoys a large level of public support in the state, shared. Although it was likely that Democratic Gov. John Lynch, who signed the law nearly three years ago, would have vetoed any successful repeal anyway, observers have described that it as very surprising the bill was upheld almost by a 100-vote margin.

Opponents of the bill warned that this victory for same-sex marriage could have dire consequences for the traditional definition of marriage, and could possibly open the way for polygamists.

"We are indeed on a slippery slope," said State Rep. Warren Groen (R-Rochester).

Craig Stowell, a Republican who is co-chair of Standing Up for New Hampshire Families, a group that led the battle against the repeal, said, however, that the vote was "a banner day for the freedom to marry."

"Our opponents have been crowing about getting their two-thirds, but in the end, it's clear they couldn't muster the votes," noted Stowell, a former Marine who considers himself a conservative.

"What's happening here in New Hampshire is the amazing new direction that the Republican Party is taking at the state level," declared Tyler Deaton, a spokesperson for New Hampshire Republicans for Freedom and Equality PAC, which raised money for Republicans voting against the repeal, as quoted by the Daily Beast.

"We've got so many Republican state representatives that are opposed to this repeal effort. And it's like the Republican Party's getting back to its roots-values of individual freedom and liberty and equality. It's been an exciting thing to see. I think that New Hampshire is going to be a model for the national Republican Party to see that it is okay for the Republicans to be inclusive of gays and lesbians and to be in favor of equal rights. It's a new step forward for the party."

Not surprisingly, national gay rights advocacy groups have also hailed the vote as a major step forward for same-sex marriage, and thanked the many New Hampshire Republicans who voted in their favor.

"This victory was made possible by Republicans and conservatives standing up for freedom and family," said Joe Solmonese, the president of the Human Rights Campaign, one of the leading organizations behind the state's marriage equality bill. "Clearly, Granite Staters believe this is a settled issue, and it's time to move on," he urged.

The National Organization for Marriage has, however, pledged to continue fighting in support of traditional marriage and giving N.H. voters a say in the matter.

"This is a sad day for New Hampshire families who in 2010 had elected what they thought was a solid pro-marriage majority. They were once again let down by politicians who promised them one thing and then left them at the altar when the vote was on the line. These legislators will be held accountable," NOM's president said. 

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