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March 17. 2012 11:45PM

Joseph W. McQuaid -- On gay marriage: Let the people vote

The bad news on the New Hampshire marriage issue? The hypocrisy on both sides remains breathtaking. The good news? There is a ray of hope that the people of New Hampshire may actually get to settle this important debate.

Some favoring “same-sex marriage'' insist that a Republican-led Legislature was elected in 2010 to concentrate on the economy, not on social issues. Yet it was a Democratic-led Legislature that campaigned on everything but gay marriage two years earlier and then spent considerable time pushing it through to be signed by a governor who had said he opposed it.

Some gay-marriage foes say the voters returned Republicans to a big majority as a direct response to that big social change. That may be so, but we don't recall many legislators campaigning on it.

Now those who got what they wanted say “game over.'' Any review of the issue is “turning back the clock'' and taking away “rights.'' Some gay-marriage proponents call anyone against them bigots; while some opponents smear the other side as emissaries of Satan.

Gay-marriage proponents cite a couple of polls as proof positive that the people of New Hampshire are on their side. Yet when Rep. David Bates last week suggested a November ballot question on the subject, the gay marriage crowd was adamantly against the idea. One spokesman called such a vote, “the world's most expensive public opinion survey, expecting the taxpayers to foot the bill.''

That is first-rate spin, but hardly factual.

The fact is a non-binding question on the November ballot would cost nothing and would be an excellent opportunity for everyone to weigh in on this divisive topic. (It is not something that should be done for run-of-the-mill issues.) But we can see why it is feared. In EVERY state where the voters have been allowed a say, they have voted overwhelmingly that traditional marriage between a man and a woman is, always has been, and should continue to be protected and treated as the unique and important societal institution that it is.

Rather than let a lameduck governor veto a gay-marriage repeal, we suggest that Rep. Bates withdraw that part of his bill and instead put forth the November ballot question by itself. Let the people decide and let the next legislature, and new governor, follow their will.


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