The impressive feature of yesterday’s victory for marriage equality was the extent of Republican support for defending marriage equality. The GOP has an overwhelming 3 to 1 majority in the State House, but the bill went down by almost 2 – 1. Among the 211 votes against, were about 100 Republicans (nearly half of the total), who defied their caucus leadership on the matter. This is a valuable illustration of how even political conservatives are coming to see gay marriage as consonant with their values, and not in conflict with their religious beliefs.
“The people that are supporting repeal want their personal religious views to be the law of the land. I hate to say it, but that’s really what it’s coming down to,” Representative Tammy Simmons added. “It’s great to have faith and it’s great to have religion, but that should dictate your life, not how somebody else lives their life.”
This decision to stand with libertarian principles rather than traditionalist impulses represents victory in the effort to modernize the Republican Party and expand its appeal rather than courting a backlash by reinforcing some of its negative stereotypes.
In particular, some legislators were concerned that an ideological over-reach by social conservatives could alienate independent voters—who make up a plurality of registered voters in the Granite State—in the next election. “I am concerned about the message it could sends to Independent voters,” said Schroadter. “I’m a Republican for small government, low taxes, and pro-business initiatives. This [marriage equality] is just one of those issues that government should probably stay away from.”
Attitudes toward same-sex marriage have changed dramatically in the past few years alone, with 59% of independents now supporting it, compared to 49% in 2010, according to Gallup. Significantly, only 7% of New Hampshire Republicans voted for the Freedom to Marry in 2009.
“What’s happening here in New Hampshire is the amazing new direction that the Republican Party is taking at the state level,” said Tyler Deaton, a spokesperson for New Hampshire Republicans for Freedom and Equality PAC. “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.”
It is healthy and heartening to see libertarians stand up to social conservatives on matters of principle and conscience, aiming for a philosophic consistency that reconnects the Republican Party to its roots as a force for expanding individual freedom.
Ostrich of the week award goes to the sponsor of the bill, Bill Bates, who said he simply did not believe the polls that showed very limited voter support for repeal.
In a poll released in early February by the University of New Hampshire Survey Center, 59 percent of respondents were either strongly or somewhat opposed to repealing the law, while 32 percent said they supported repeal. But Mr. Bates said he did not believe that the results truly reflected public opinion.
Mr. Bates said the repeal effort could return next year, adding, “I don’t think this is the end of it.”
- New Hampshire House Kills Marriage Equality Repeal Bill (thinkprogress.org)
- IRONY ALERT: Anti-Gay Group Complains About Out-Of-Staters ‘Buying’ Marriage Equality In New Hampshire (thinkprogress.org)
- My Kids See Marriage Equality as a Non-Issue (mlp.org)