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Shaheen: Efforts to Repeal N.H. Marriage Equality Law Are "Unfortunate"

by Michael K. Lavers
National News Editor
Friday Mar 16, 2012

New Hampshire Sen. Jeanne Shaheen told EDGE in an exclusive interview earlier on Friday that efforts to repeal the Granite State's marriage equality law are "unfortunate."

"We've seen some people get elected who as I said don't reflect the mainstream of where most New Hampshire voters are," she said immediately after she spoke at a fundraiser for Standing Up for New Hampshire Families, a group opposed to House Bill 437, at the Human Rights Campaign in Washington, D.C. "It's unfortunate that they're trying to repeal this law and so much of the progress that's been made on equal rights for gay and lesbian couples, for women, for people in New Hampshire."

Shaheen's comments come less than a week before the New Hampshire House is scheduled to vote on HB 437.

The bill's sponsor, state Rep. David Bates (R-Windham,) announced earlier this week that he would add an amendment to HB 437 that would ask voters in a non-binding referendum whether they support the reinstatement of the state's civil unions law that took effect in 2007.

A WMUR/University of New Hampshire Survey Center poll in early February found that 59 percent of state residents oppose HB 437. Forty-four percent of respondents who participated in a similar survey last October said they are more likely to vote against a candidate who supports the repeal of the state's marriage equality law.

Shaheen echoed activists and other observers who concede that HB 437 will likely pass in the House. Governor John Lynch, who signed the state's marriage equality law in 2009, has repeatedly vowed to veto the measure. Marriage equality supporters remain optimistic that HB 437 proponents will not have enough votes to override the governor's threatened veto.

"We don't know where the vote whether there will be enough votes to override his veto, but hopefully there will not and his veto will stand," said Shaheen.

New Hampshire is among eight states and the District of Columbia that allow marriage for same-sex couples.

Maryland's marriage equality law that Gov. Martin O'Malley signed earlier this month is scheduled to take effect on Jan. 1, pending the outcome of a proposed referendum. Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire in February signed a bill that will allow gays and lesbians to marry in her state. New Jersey lawmakers also approved a similar measure last month, but Gov. Chris Christie vetoed it.

North Carolina voters in May will vote on a proposed constitutional amendment that will ban marriage for same-sex couples. Minnesotans will consider a similar measure in November, while Maine voters will vote on a referendum to allow gays and lesbians to marry in the Pine Tree State.

Shaheen, who co-chairs President Barack Obama's re-election campaign, is among the 22 U.S. senators who have endorsed a proposal that would add marriage for same-sex couples to the Democratic Party's 2012 platform.

"One of the things that a party platform should do is state not just where the country is, but where we think it should go," she said. "This is clearly an effort to do that, to say to people this needs to happen."

Obama has faced increased criticism in recent months from some LGBT activists over his failure to publicly support marriage for same-sex couples. Shaheen said she has yet to have an opportunity to speak directly with the president about the issue. She stressed, however, that the Obama administration continues to advocate on behalf of LGBT Americans.

"The president has made some significant progress, repealing 'don't ask, don't tell' and as you know he's had a whole lot of issues to deal with," said Shaheen. "Pointing out the progress is very important and we need to keep moving to make sure we continue to make progress."

Shaheen also criticized House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and other congressional Republicans over their continued defense of the Defense of Marriage Act. The Senate Judiciary Committee last November advanced a bill that would repeal the statute that then-President Bill Clinton signed into law in 1996. Shaheen stressed that DOMA can be repealed if Democrats regain control of the House.

"We're going to have to change our elected leadership in Congress in order to allow that to happen," she said.

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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