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Don't tamper with same-sex marriage law

Last modified: 1/3/2012 12:00:00 AM
One of the big, unanswered questions of the new session of the New Hampshire Legislature: Will the Republicans have enough votes to override Gov. John Lynch's promised veto of any attempt to repeal the state's gay marriage law?

For many legislators, 2012 will be the first time they will have voted on this issue. This editorial is about them - and the responsibility they hold to all their constituents, gay and straight.

Over the past several years, we've heard a handful of regular arguments against gay marriage - at the State House, on the national stage, among the candidates vying for our votes in next week's presidential primary. Examined dispassionately, none of them should sway any votes in the weeks ahead. Consider:

• Marriage is between one man and one woman. This is more of a declaration than an actual argument. In fact, it's a declaration of bigotry. After all, who gets to define marriage? Those already married? Without a compelling reason to deny marriage to gay people, a statement like this is hard to take seriously.

• But marriage has been restricted to heterosexuals for thousands of years. Many traditions outlive their usefulness. Slavery was an ancient practice too, after all. So was barring women from participation in politics. Once upon a time, people with disabilities were routinely locked away in institutions. Mercifully, times change.

• Marriage is for procreation. In many cases, yes. But infertile, straight couples marry all the time. So do those uninterested in having kids. Those past their child-bearing years aren't forced to divorce. Having children isn't the only thing that brings couples together.

• Same-sex couples don't do as good a job raising children. There are all sorts of good parents and, alas, a wide variety of bad ones, too. Sexual orientation has nothing to do with it. Nor is there a legislative push to ban other sorts of truly bad parents - child molesters, bank robbers - from marrying. No doubt each of New Hampshire's 424 legislators has among his or her constituents gay couples raising children just fine. Examples that disprove this worry are easy to find.

• Same-sex marriage will start us down a slippery slope toward legalized polygamy and incest. No sign of this so far - in New Hampshire or in the places where gay marriage has a longer history. This is simply a scare tactic. In the off chance that they are actually presented with legislation proposing such notions, lawmakers could simply vote no.

• Gay relationships are immoral. Some religions do preach that. But lawmakers must represent all their constituents, not just those who share their religious beliefs. And they must not impose their own religious beliefs on their constituents. Freedom from religion is just as important as the freedom of religion.

• Same-sex marriage threatens the institution of marriage. In fact, encouraging marriage simply . . . encourages marriage. Hard to see how the gay marriage next-door threatens the straight marriage under your roof. Hard to imagine that the legalization of gay marriage is dissuading straight people from getting married or encouraging them to split up.

Since gay marriage became legal in New Hampshire, nearly 2,000 couples have taken advantage of it. This is something to celebrate, not reject. Lawmakers wrestling with this issue for the first time in 2012 should think hard before taking away rights, before legalizing discrimination against the people they have sworn an oath to represent.

Simply put, leave the law alone.


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