Photo by Thomas Roy, NH Union Leader.
In November 2010 a tsunami of red swept Concord, New Hampshire, when the GOP won veto-proof majorities in the state House and Senate.
Yesterday, the tide was high and red in the Granite State again. But unlike the one in 2010, that left me devastated and distraught, this one brought waves of elation and joy.
Though New Hampshire's marriage equality was not on any candidate or voter's radar in the election cycle (think: jobs, taxes, deficit, "Obamacare!") the New Hampshire Republicans wasted no time filing not one, but three bills to revoke gay people's right to marry in the New Hampshire.
Yesterday, the State House held public hearings on the bills. Courage Campaign's Adam Bink reported "the official pro-con count on the committee sign-in sheet is 540 in favor of equality, 40 opposed."
Supporters of marriage equality were asked to wear red. This is the time a picture really does say a 1,000 words:
Among those who testified was Craig Stowell. JPMassar diaried his open letter to the legislature. It is powerful enough it bears repeating. Here are the materials NH's Freedom To Marry Coalition made available via Standing Up For New Hampshire Families:
Dean Barker at Blue Hampshire has a first person account worth reading in its entirety. An excerpt:
Over and over again in the testimony of those against repeal I heard courage. There were many stories shared, about sacrifice, about pain, about discrimination. Told of themselves, of their mothers, their children, their brothers, their friends. Stories about celebration and hope, too. In them you felt the collective struggle of the often difficult movement from second class citizen status to true equality.
Also present in significant numbers was the moral courage of the religious left, a group virtually invisible in popular culture but powerfully present today.
The running theme of all the pro-marriage speakers was courage. For some it was the immediate courage of never having spoken publicly before about such a thing. For others, the experiential courage that showed through loud and clear in the retelling of a struggle.
The religious left does seem to have stepped up. A prolific Twitter reporter on the scene Tara Mahady-Coltey observed:
First 2 rows of Representatives Hall filled w Clergy of all Faiths wearing red.
Barker also has some words to share about the opposition. Most chilling is his account of when Rep. Bates "calmly and confidently declared that the majority rules even in matters of the rights of minorities."
Among the few people who did testify in favor of repeal was, of course, salaried, professional homophobe and proud resident of New Jersey, New Hampshire, Maggie Gallagher (an account here). She heads National Organization for Marriage (mostly a
money laundering operation front group for the Catholic and Mormon Churches) and after wasting hundreds of thousands of dollars in a failed attempt to unseat Governor John Lynch, is desperate to pull a win out of this state, anyway. “It is not discrimination to treat different things differently,” Maggie said. (Maggie? We're talking about how people are treated, not "things." Say it with me Maggie: "Gays are people, not things.")
Another person who showed up because his job paid him to was Kevin Smith of Cornerstone Action, a conservative PAC, argued for repealing marriage equality and claimed President Obama was on their side. Jeremy Hooper from GoodAsYou blog reported:
Kevin Smith from CPR Action said President Obama held their position.
I'm sure White House Spokesman Jay Carney will want to send out a clarification soon. We can't have the President's position misrepresented in the public record.
I was curious to see how the New Hampshire's notoriously right-wing paper the Union Leader would spin it. The headline is a good spin attempt, it describes the situation rather neutrally, declaring: "Hundreds turn out to be heard on proposed same-sex marriage repeal" not really specifing it was actually hundreds turn out to oppose repeal and dozens to support it. But they can't varnish the truth in the copy:
More than 650 people turned out for the public hearing on the three bills, the vast majority opposed to repealing the law approved when Democrats controlled the Legislature.
Robert Gibson and his husband Joseph Marquette watch the hearings. Photo by Katie Barnes / Monitor staff
The more left-leaning Concord Monitor places the figure at 700. An excerpt:
In the first minutes of the hearing, sponsors of both marriage repeal bills urged the House Judiciary Committee to retain their bills until the 2012 legislative session. But that did not stop 8½ hours of testimony touching on God, the Bible, the Constitution, American history and personal experience. Opponents of the bill outnumbered supporters 10-to-1, according to some counts.
Paul Ober, a University of New Hampshire club hockey player, came out to his teammates at the hearing, telling them, and the committee, that he is bisexual.
"It sucks to be gay because of the discrimination," Ober said afterward. "It's legally condone-able behavior to make fun of homosexuals, bisexuals, anyone with an alternative lifestyle."
The sophomore English major said he hopes if same-sex marriage remains in place, people will "come around" and stop discriminating. "The law was passed originally based on an act of love and kindness to a group of people," Ober said. "To take that away is pointless and illogical."
I've seen estimates up to 750. Regardless, the show of opposition was fierce (and fabulous!). The left in New Hampshire can be very proud of themselves. They sent an undeniable message to the NH legislature about the will of people in the Granite State.
Freedom To Marry Coalition had this to say:
Marriage equality has long suffered from an unfair split 15/70/15. That is to say 15% feels passionately against it. 15% feels passionately for it, and they are battling it out for the hearts and minds of the 70% in the middle.
If that sounds like a fair fight, consider this: the 15% opposed have funds and resources and infrastructure the LGBT community can only dream about. They utilize their pulpits to compel "tithing" and preach their positions. When our side has tried that, we are punished with a swift defrocking.
They have societal inertia and millennia of institutionalized homophobia on their side.
And, the status quo is on their side. (Except, fortunately, in New Hampshire.) But in most parts, all that is necessary for the regressives to prevail is for too many in middle to not engage. But increasingly, we have our siblings, like Stowell, our parents and grandparents, even our offspring seizing the opportunity to discuss what "family values" means to them. This is how we win.
Well done yesterday, to all who engaged. And all those who reached out for the backup.
Congratulations to Mo Baxley and NH's Freedom to Marry Coalition, Zandra Rice Hawkins of Granite State Progress, Adam Bink and Courage Campaign, Jim Splain, and countless others. Really too many to mention. Big win Thursday. HUGE.
(And really smart move to ask supporters to wear red. Everyone has a red shirt, and it really pops in pictures, so you can see where people's views are. Action organizers, are you taking notes?)
This lopsided showing only reinforces a recent poll that showed 62% of New Hampshire residents oppose repeal. There isn't the will in the electorate to see these bills passed.
The legislature has shelved the bills until 2012. But by New Hampshire law, all bills that are introduced must come to a vote. Seems the GOP may have painted themselves into a corner here.
The question remains, will New Hampshire Republican party listen to the Will Of The People?
Or will they cater to an out-of-state special interest group that has money-bombed New Hampshire to promote bigotry?Updated by Clarknt67 at Fri Feb 18, 2011, 11:35:44 AM
Just in my inbox is this from the Courage Campaign, a group very instrutmental in this action.
Yesterday, I stood up for my daughter
It's not just about marriage equality, it's about my daughter Cait, and her freedom to marry the person she loves. So when I found out from Courage Campaign that NOM, the so-called "National Organization for Marriage," was trying to take that right away from my Cait, I couldn't stand by and do nothing.
They're asking people to contribute to their Double Down fundraising effort. I think they earned a plug here. Updated by Clarknt67 at Fri Feb 18, 2011, 05:38:46 PM
I just noticed a repeal supporter is is pictured holding a sign here that says
"Christians go to the back of the bus."
He's upset that Senate Majority leader back burnered the repeal bills until 2012.
Because if Christians don't get to rescind the rights of gay people, THAT's exactly like living under Jim Crow laws! How difficult it is to be a bigoted Right-Wing Christian who wishes to run roughshod over the gays in today's America. Time to get out my tiny violin.