March 8, 2007

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Concord Publisher's Note: Not married to the idea
By Dan Szczesny

I believe it was the great philosopher Bo Diddley that asked one of the great questions of the 20th Century “Who Do You Love?”

And while Bo was willing to walk 47 miles of barbed wire and wear a rattlesnake for a necktie to proclaim his love for Arlene, the New Hampshire Legislature has other ideas. In fact, it seems like our lawmakers have many, many, other ideas about who we should love.

At a public hearing in Concord this week, our elected officials, along with a huge throng of citizens, argued and debated a seemingly endless string of proposals regarding same-sex couples and marriage.

The point of the hearing, which took place in front of the House Judiciary Committee was ostensibly about a proposal to create spousal unions which would grant same-sex couples the same legal benefits as marriage. But of course, the hearing turned into a chaotic soap-box forum where grandstanding politicians, religious Bible-thumpers and left-wing extremists had a chance to lay claim to pretty much any willy-nilly idea that popped into their head.

On one hand, this is New Hampshire and that kind of town meeting style free-for-all has a long important tradition in this state. On the other hand, it serves no one and no purpose to even engage in conversation that contains typical stereotypical homophobic fears about God’s judgment, the “homosexual trap” and the like. One attendee, according to reports, even feared that Massachusetts, the only state where gay couples can marry, had “run amok.” Oh, no! To Granite Staters that’s a fate even worse than same-sex marriage!

And to be honest, our so-called lawmakers were no better, bringing to the table no less than half a dozen different types of proposals covering everything from “contractual cohabitation” to a constitutional amendment to removing the ban on same-sex marriage entirely. There was even discussion about a Vermont-style civil union bill. (I guess it’s fine to be like Vermont.)

With the presidential primary season already upon us and a new state legislature looking to blaze some trails, I suppose there’s no other way to address an issue like same-sex marriage then through strong-arm debate. Put it all out on the table and beat the hell out of it until either something gets done through sheer exhaustion or it’s forgotten about, but at least lawmakers can tell their constituents they tried.

But in the end, flogging the issue to death seems like the wrong way to go. Real leadership is needed here, and at least when it comes to this hot-button issue, our lawmakers may not have the stones to legislate in any meaningful way. After all, despite the Democrat majority in the State House, Gov. John Lynch opposes gay marriage and has been conspicuously absent from any debate on same-sex marriage.

With everyone running in different directions, it’s going to take a fair amount of political courage to do what’s right and and bring dignity and respect to this debate.

Anybody know Bo Diddley’s number?