The prime sponsor of a bill to is amending his legislation to include a statewide ballot initiative allowing people to vote on the measure in November.
State Rep. David Bates, R-Windham, said at a press conference today in Concord that it became evident that his bill did not have enough votes to override veto threat. In recent weeks, he began working on ways to amend his bill in order to gain enough votes to override the veto.
The changes to House Bill 437 include what Bates called a more concise statement of purpose, including the reestablishment of civil unions without any civil rights challenges. It also eliminates the religious liberty clause and pares down the definition of marriage to about two brief paragraphs, he said.
“This will eliminate the baseless but effective, hysterical claims that others have been making that this bill would permit or encourage incest in New Hampshire,” he said. “Our opponents can no longer make the ridiculous claims that this law will eradicate the state’s anti-discrimination laws.”
Bates said the statewide ballot initiative had been added to the bill in an effort to allow the voters to determine the course of what the definition of marriage is. The question will read: “Shall New Hampshire law allow civil unions for same-sex couples and define marriage as a union between one man and one woman?”
It will not be binding on the Legislature, but he said the ballot measure will clarify the will of the people.
“There will be no more guessing, no more arguing or debating over dueling polls, just the actual voice of the people telling us what their will is on this issue,” he said. “I’m ready to accept and implement the will of the people on marriage in this state. I hope the rest of the Legislature is as well.”
Bates noted that the original same-sex marriage bill did not receive approval from the Judiciary Committee in 2009 and the state Senate determined it to be inexpedient to legislate. However, the Democrats were able to push through the bill by razor-thin margins, he said. The burden of changing law is a much higher threshold, he said, adding that the changes should allow more people to support the ballot initiative amendment.
Tyler Deaton, a lobbyist for , said many Republicans in the Legislature rejected the core premise of the bill because it was “taking away rights.”
If approved by the voters in November, the traditional marriage law would take effect on March 31, 2013. If rejected, the Legislature would have time to take action against the original bill to preserve same-sex marriage. Bates said if the voters disapprove of the traditional marriage language at the ballot box, he and others would drop the issue.