Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Shock Insulation in New Hampshire

That the New Hampshire House defeated an amendment banning on same-sex marriage was not a big surprise. However the 62% against was.

For an amendment to pass, three-fifths of the full 400-seat House would have to approve it.

One amendment sponsor, Sen. Jack Barnes (Republican, of course), said the vote was prophylactic. "The people is the third rail in politics and, obviously, the people that voted against it didn't want to hit the third rail."

The statewide series of hearings on the issue were definitely attended more heavily by those in favor of gay-rights. In addition, despite the recommendations of the anti-gay dominated study commission, the House Judiciary Committee reported the amendment to the floor unfavorably, by a two-to-one margin.

After an initial rush to add such amendments in states that already define marriage as between one man and one woman, the set of argument that held in New Hampshire may well be the next wave. Specifically:
  • Don't institutionalize discrimination in the constitution. Reversing it is a big deal as well as deplorable form.
  • If you have something covered in law, leave it alone. Don't pig pile.
In contrast, the Dark Side's arguments tended to be emotional and mingle personal morals, religion and civil law. For example, amendment sponsor Rep. Michael Barboni (Republican, eh what?) made his pitch to the House before the vote:
"If you believe as I believe that no governmental body should redefine what has been mankind's definition of the marital union for thousands of years . . .that four unelected individuals in the state of Massachusetts usurped legislative authority and took it upon themselves to unilaterally redefine marriage for the millions living in that state."
Oooo, that evil Massachusetts. Pity they can't disinfect the shared border daily.

Half of the New England states offer marriage or civil unions for homosexual couples. This vote softens the intransigence of the holdout. Maine has passed gay-rights protections and Rhode Island seems inching toward some form of gay unions. As lumps of Southern and Midwestern states have panicked with their skirts held off the floor recently, action on both coasts has edged toward more reason and civil rights and liberties.

Even Sen. Barnes is thinking long term. He clearly opposes civil unions as well as SSM, but he does not think civil unions are impossible in the future for his state.

Never one to learn from experience, another Republican representative, first-termer Gregory Sorg, has an inane last-ditch plan. He wants to change the state's bill of rights to give the legislature sole determination of who can marry.

More reasoned critics point out that this would be an affront to centuries of freedoms and the balance of powers in government branches. In addition in a more practical view, any such changes on the whim of the legislature could ripple through thousands of child custody, tax, inheritance and other laws and regulations.

Sorg had better be a good talker. So far, all sides, including his fellow elephants, oppose his vague and ill-constructed scheme.

1 comment:

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