03/15/10-by Bridgette P. LaVictoire
“In a way, they got what they wanted. The people of this town voted and we affirmed the right to marry is a civil right.” Rev. John Gregory-Davis of the Meriden Congregational Church made that statement after the town of Plainfield, NH’s residents voted to not support the attempt to lobby the state legislature on an anti-same-sex marriage amendment. Indeed, they voted to amend the wording to commend the legislature for passing it by 185-40.
The problem for the National Organization for Marriage, which was busy crowing over the results that did come in, is that many of the towns that had this come up actually voted to table the whole issue instead of voting. While those who oppose marriage equality did win the support of the majority of the towns where the vote was held, it ended up amounting far fewer than the one hundred towns that were suppose to vote on this issue. According to the tally, fifty-three towns voted to support the lobbying effort, twenty-three opposed it, and twenty tabled it. In essence, a bare majority of the towns that had this before them voted in favor of it, and the ninety-six towns which had it before them represent a small minority of the entirety of New Hampshire.
The organization pushing this was Let New Hampshire Vote, which has sought to push this into the public voting sphere just like similar organizations have in Maine and the National Organization for Marriage is trying to do in Washington, DC. Of course, in New Hampshire, getting an amendment on their constitution is nearly impossible since it requires a super majority of the voters to get it through. Most marriage amendments have gone through by the barest of majorities, and the voter veto in Maine was 52% to 48%.
The ballot measure also had one other major problem. It is non-binding. This vote has no legal force because the state has no petition system for amendments the way, say, California does. Indeed, this is a major problem for groups like NOM and their off shoots. Many states do not have ways by which people can put amendments on the ballot outside the South and California. This makes it very hard to roll marriage equality laws back in many places that finally do allow it.
While NOM is busy crowing about how New Hampshire voted in favor of banning marriage equality, the fact that the number of people represented by the fifty-three towns that did vote for it represent less than one percent of the New Hampshire population is something that they have chosen to gloss over.
It was Gretchen Cherington of Plainfield, NH who made the best statement among all of those that day. The mother of a straight son and a lesbian daughter, Ms Cherington stated “Gay and lesbian people suffer not because of who they are but because of who we are.”