My January 20, 2010 Testimony for Marriage Equality

added commentary by Timothy Horrigan; July 30, 2010

Even before New Hampshire's landmark marriage equality legislation came into effect, the Republicans filed bills to overturn it. (The marriage equality bills were signed into law on June 3, 2009, but their effective date was January 1, 2010— and by the way I was a witness at a same-sex marriage ceremony on the State House steps at 12:01am on January 1, 2010.)

Maybe I should not blame all the Republicans because both HB 1590 and CACR 28 were killed by almost a 2-1 margin; dozens of Republicans (including some of the most conservative ones) crossed over to vote with us liberals. A third bill directed against gay marriage, a "people's veto" constitutional amendment, was so unpopular even the prime sponsor voted against it.

On January 20, 2010, the first anniversary of Obama's inauguration, the House Judiciary Committee heard HB 1590 and CACR 28. The first bill would have statutorily repealed gay marriage without even reinstating civil unions. CACR 28 would have placed discriminatory language into the State Constitutions Bill of Rights by adding an Article stating: "The State shall only recognize as marriage, whether in name or effect, the union of one man and one woman."

I was at the hearing all day, but I missed one of the highlights of the day when I took my lunch break. I went out to lunch and also dropped by some other hearings, so I missed it. One of the reasons I went out to lunch when I did was because another one of my colleagues, Al Baldasaro was about to speak and I could tell he was wound up and was about to say stuff I wasn't going to like. I left so I wouldn't get angry with Baldasaro. (I like Al as a person, by the way, even though most Democrats are afraid of him: we became friends before I was even elected, when we were on opposite sides of a fight over a Bush-Cheney impeachment resolution, and we have worked together on some issues. And he has been very helpful to me.) I was already angry with another colleague who is also my friend, and whom I also work with on many issues, David Bates.


A few days later, when the committee held its Executive Sesssion, Rep. Nancy Elliott had a meltdown and started babbling about penises being wiggled around in excrement and anal sex being taught in the Nashua School District. The video of this incident went viral. The Elliott story ended badly, but not as badly as it might have. Unlike some other Granite Staters who have embarassed themselves in public at political events, she opted not to become a Fox news celebrity. She did try to place an obscene minority-committee blurb in the weekly calendar, but she agreed to withdraw it. She apologized on the floor of the house, remained almost completely silent for the rest of the term (which is uncharacteristic behavior on her part), and she didn't even file for re-election.

Without further ado, here is my written testimony:

Written Testimony Against HB1590

AN ACT repealing same-sex marriage.

Rep. Timothy Horrigan (Strafford District 7); House Judiciary Committee; January 19, 2010

I urge the House to reject HB1590-FN. The marriage equality laws, even though some people don't approve of gay marriage, have been a success. I do not have an exact figure, but a significant number of same-sex couples have gotten married. I think that's a good thing. The fact that many couples are now happily married is reason enough to kill HB1590.

I am not married myself, but I think that the state should not be preventing any couples from being married. Thanks to HB1590, all religious groups in the state are now free to follow their conscience. I know there are some religious groups who oppose gay marriage. There are others which do approve of gay marriage, and those groups have been performing commitment ceremonies long before Gov. Lynch signed marriage equality into law. They are now free to call those ceremonies what they always were: weddings.

At least two members of this House have gotten married since the marriage equality bills got passed. Both of them happened to be male. Rep. Michael Rollo was able to marry his longtime partner in October. (This was before he resigned to work as an aide to the State Senate.) He and his partner stood before their friends and family and promised to love and honor each other for the rest of their lives. After a simple ceremony, Mike and Caitlin Rollo were married. Rep. Robert Thompson, a member of this committee, had to wait till January to do the exact same thing. Why did Rep. Thompson have to wait till January? Because Rep. Thompson and his partner Michael Jacobsen happened to be of the same gender, and therefore they had to wait till the new laws became effective on January 1st, 2010. That's not exactly fair but it is infinitely less unfair than what will happen if HB1590 passes: HB1590 would repeal marriage equality altogether.

I see no reason why the state has any business denying Rep. Thompson a basic right which no one begrudges Rep. Rollo: the right to be married to the person you love. Love is good: the state should be in favor of it.

The fiscal note states that the bill will cost the state at least $60,000, in a time of fiscal crisis. That is not counting lost Rooms and Meals tax revenues from the same sex weddings which would no longer be taking place if HB1590 is passed. Nor does it include the cost of defending the lawsuits which would undoubtedly follow the enactment of HB1590. Even the basic $60,000 is a lot of money to spend on a measure which solves no real problem and as far as I can tell is intended merely to send a message. If they just want to send a message, Rep. Baldasaro and the other sponsors should just go borrow the lobby of the LOB and hold a press conference— and be done with it. That would cost the taxpayers nothing while still sending a message. The cost alone is reason to kill this bill, which is also grossly unfair and blatantly unconstitutional.

This bill goes beyond repealing gay marriage. It does not restore civil unions, which were a replacement for real marriage, giving some of the rights and responsibility of marriage though not all. Civil unions were an insult, but they were better than nothing— and during last year's "gay marriage" debate most of the opponents of marriage equality endorsed civil unions. For example, one of the leading members of the minority caucus said something (in a floor debate which was not placed in the permanent journal) to the effect that: "The same sex people already have civil unions. Isn't that enough?"

HB1590 also takes away the religious protections in RSA 457:37 which currently allow all religious groups to freely decide who can or cannot be married in their places of worship. Finally, HB1590 flies in the face of a trend towards gender neutral language on our law books (and it might even be rendered meaningless in the event that CACR 32 passes.) The law should be about what you do, not about who you are or what gender you happen to be.

HB 1590 is a bad bill which if passed would cause many problems while solving no real problems at all. Please ITL HB1590.

Written Testimony Against CACR28

PROVIDING THAT: the state shall only recognize the union of one man and one woman as marriage."

Rep. Timothy Horrigan (Strafford District 7); House Judiciary Committee; January 20, 2010

This session, I found out the hard way that monogamy is a deeply rooted ideal in this society. I have cosponsored a bill, HB 1402, which would repeal the criminal penalties on adultery. The hearing before the Criminal Justice committee proved to be anticlimactic, but the bill was— and still is— very controversial (in spite of the fact that the law is never enforced anyway.) I was even the subject of a very negative editorial in the Union Leader. (I take pride in that, even though I am a regular reader of the newspaper.)

One of the reasons I sponsored that bill was because I thought adultery— i.e., the failure to be monogamous— should not be a criminal offense Monogamy is a voluntary personal choice which should cannot be enforced by criminal law and which also does not belong in the constitution.

I admit that I am missing the basic point of CACR 28 by talking about monogamy. It's not intended as a pro-monogamy bill at all. It is in fact an anti-monogamy bill: it seeks to deny monogamous gay couples the right to be married. That said, if CACR 32 (a proposed amendment "providing that: all references to people in the constitution shall refer to both male and female") passes, along with CACR 28, then CACR 28 would (more likely than not) be rendered meaningless . The proposed Article 40 would become nothing more or less than a pro-monogamy provision.

Even if CACR 32 doesn't pass, CACR 28 is severely problematic, and would be very bad law. It takes basic rights away from law abiding citizens who happen to be gay. It contradicts other sections of the constitution which guarantee personal and religious freedom. It doesn't explain at all what it means for the state to refuse to "recognize" otherwise legal and valid marriages, including many marriages contracted here in New Hampshire. It violates the full faith and credit clause of the United States Constitution.

Even the basic words "man" and "woman" are problematic: some people do change their sex and others are "intersexual." There are also some individuals who firmly identify with one gender or the other but who have physical characteristics (such as chromosomes other than "XX" for female and "XY" for male) which are not usual for the sex they belong to. All three of those groups are human beings who deserve the same rights as anyone else— including the right to marry.

[CACR 32 passed the Senate unanimously, but the House referred it to interim study: the big problem in our view was that we would have had to print almost the entire state constitution, which has about 150 articles in it, on the general election ballot. We may have to change the law related to how constitutional amendments are shown on the ballot.]

See also:

See Also: