N.H. gay-marriage test for 2012ers?

March 7, 2011


New Hampshire’s Legislature is likely to hold a vote to repeal the state’s law permitting same-sex marriage next January, a development that would force the GOP presidential field to confront the issue on the eve of the first-in-the-nation primary.

It’s a debate that so far has left Republican candidates squirming and could shatter any notion of a GOP “truce” on social issues designed to keep the primary focused on the economy.

The showdown is being shifted to early next year because fiscal hawks in the state GOP convinced the sponsors of same-sex marriage bills to put off the measures so lawmakers could focus on cutting spending in this session. One bill would prohibit same-sex marriage in New Hampshire, and another would prevent the state from recognizing any union that’s not between one man and one woman.

The move, made official Thursday, guarantees the gay marriage bills will come up for a vote in the state House in January. If either bill passes, it most likely would move to the Senate a few weeks later — close to or right on top of the scheduled Feb. 14 primary.

Social conservatives in the state hope to force the presidential hopefuls to take a stand in defense of the traditional family — and set the true believers apart from those who would prefer to mostly ignore gay issues in the face of rising popular support for same-sex marriage.

Some conservative activists plan to ask candidates to sign a pledge saying they support marriage as between one man and one woman. They also plan to ask them to call state legislators and urge them to repeal the gay marriage law — right as state voters prepare to go to the polls amid the intense media spotlight on New Hampshire.

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