While New Hampshire’s Democratic Governor John Lynch survived his reelection race despite a barrage of attack ads from anti-equality groups like the National Organization for Marriage, Republicans won veto-proof majorities in both the State House and Senate. As a result, Religious Right groups such as the Family Research Council have committed to do “whatever it takes” to repeal New Hampshire’s law legalizing gay marriage, which passed in 2009 and went into effect last year. In 2009, Religious Right groups succeeded in overturning a Maine law legalizing gay marriage that was passed by the legislature and signed by the governor by flooding the state with anti-gay activists and misleading ads, and now they have set their sights on New Hampshire. While the Republican majorities in both chambers have the votes to pass a repeal bill, it will require 2/3 majorities to override the governor’s veto. The Concord Monitor reports on how organizations are gearing-up for a major battle over the future of marriage equality in the Granite State:
The lead organizations in the fight are likely to be Cornerstone Action and New Hampshire Freedom to Marry. Cornerstone is affiliated with a national organization – CitizenLink (formerly Focus on the Family) – which could support state efforts. But both sides are also attracting attention from other groups.
On the side of repealing gay marriage, the National Organization for Marriage spent nearly $1.5 million on campaign ads against Lynch. The day after the November election, National Organization for Marriage President Brian Brown said in a press release that the organization is “poised to start taking back territory where (gay marriage) was wrongly enacted in places like New Hampshire and Iowa. That will be the next battleground, and we are confident of victory.”
Brown said last week that the organization will continue to work closely with Cornerstone “to make sure that the wrong of forcing same-sex marriage on New Hampshire is corrected.”
The Family Research Council also has a presence in New Hampshire, which it plans to continue. It contributed the legal maximum donation of $5,000 to Cornerstone’s PAC during the elections. Tom McClusky, senior vice president of the group’s policy wing, said the group has invested in making New Hampshire’s Legislature more friendly to traditional marriage. “We don’t want to see that go to waste,” McClusky said.
How much money and effort will be poured into the New Hampshire campaign depends on what type of bill is ultimately proposed. In Maine, which held a statewide referendum that ultimately vetoed the state’s gay marriage bill, local and national activists spent more than $6 million to sway public opinion.
The anti gay marriage group there, Stand for Marriage Maine, was led by a local pastor, Bob Emrich, and representatives from the Catholic Diocese in Maine and the National Organization for Marriage. It spent between $2 million and $3 million. The group hired the same public relations firm that worked on a California referendum and got help from the Family Research Council and Family Watch International. Emrich said the National Organization for Marriage was the largest financial contributor, donating around $1.5 million that helped with TV and radio ads, staff, mailings and public relations. The Family Research Council organized rallies and helped with communications and training activists.
For now, there are at least two proposed repeal bills in the Legislature and one constitutional amendment. Only the constitutional amendment has the potential to go on a statewide ballot, but not until 2012. Rep. David Bates, a Windham Republican who proposed two of the bills, said he anticipates moving forward with a repeal bill this session but perhaps not pursuing the constitutional amendment until 2012. A constitutional amendment would require a majority vote of 60 percent in the House and Senate, and a two-thirds’ majority of the state’s voters. The governor would not have a role.
Bates said it may not make sense to go ahead with a constitutional amendment this year, when it would not appear until 2012, and the goal of repealing gay marriage could be accomplished sooner by a law change. “This legislation is intended to restore the marriage law, to put it back where we were four years ago,” Bates said.