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Opponents of gay marriage rally

GOP presidential candidate Santorum joins Family Research Council

Tony Perkins wants to give credit where credit is due. When New Hampshire legalized same-sex marriage two years ago, he said, it did it through the Legislature and not the courts.

"That's the way, if it's going to be done, the way it should be done. These issues should be thoroughly debated and wrestled out in the public," Perkins, president of the Washington, D.C.-based Family Research Council, said yesterday.

But, he added, "It doesn't make it right."

Perkins and other opponents of gay marriage made clear yesterday morning at a "Restore Marriage Rally" in downtown Concord that they'll fight at the State House next year to repeal gay marriage in the state.

Christopher Plante, northeast regional coordinator for the National Organization for Marriage, said New Hampshire was the first state to legalize gay marriage through legislation. (Vermont had passed same-sex marriage legislation a few months earlier in 2009 over a gubernatorial veto.) Six states now allow gay and lesbian couples to marry.

"However, we're going to let bygones be bygones," Plante said. "And we're going to look in January and say, you're going to be the first in the nation to legislatively repeal homosexual marriage."

Republican presidential candidate and former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum also spoke at the rally. He told the roughly three dozen people gathered in the parking lot of the Holiday Inn that one-man, one-woman marriage is the glue that holds together the American family, and families form the nation's foundation.

"Our country is not founded on the individual," Santorum said. "It is founded on the basic unit of society, which is the family. You don't want to found your society on individuals, because that's like founding a house on grains of sand."

The council had said Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann, another GOP presidential candidate, would speak at the rally, but she didn't attend. Bachmann's campaign said the event was never on her schedule.

Several bills to repeal gay marriage have been proposed in the Legislature, and the issue may come to a head next year. Gov. John Lynch, a Democrat and one-time opponent of gay marriage who signed the 2009 law legalizing it, has pledged to veto any repeal. That means any measure would need two-thirds support in both chambers to become law.

Perkins, speaking to yesterday's gathering, drew a connection between the economy and marriage.

"You want to get the economy going again? We need to put a focus on marriage and on children, because that is our future," Perkins said. "Look at the GDP (Gross Domestic Product) and growing the GDP - we'll never grow the GDP with a shrinking population."

The rally was part of the council's Values Voter Bus Tour. Kevin Smith, executive director of New Hampshire's Cornerstone Action, a conservative advocacy group, thanked the crowd for coming to "support marriage as one man and one woman and our efforts to restore the definition of marriage in New Hampshire to one man and one woman in January."

But Craig Stowell, co-chairman of an anti-repeal group called Standing Up for New Hampshire Families, pointed to a February poll that showed only 29 percent of residents wanted to repeal same-sex marriage. The poll, conducted by the University of New Hampshire, found 62 percent opposed repeal and 9 percent were neutral or didn't know.

"For me, it's hard to understand where this falls in line with Granite State voters," Stowell said, standing at the edge of yesterday's rally.

(Ben Leubsdorf can be reached at 369-3307 or bleubsdorf@cmonitor.com.)