In the legislative debates from January through June, 2009 on whether gay marriage should be adopted by New Hampshire, we had hundreds of citizens speaking at the public hearings. It was an issue that brought many people to our State House fighting for fairness in their effort to break down a barrier to equality.
Perhaps our shortest speaker at the public hearings and in floor debate was the late State Representative Peter Allen of Harrisville. He would get up to the microphone and take a moment to scan the audience. Then slowly, and ever so clearly, he would say…”with liberty and justice for all.” That was it.
He made his point, usually followed by applause. Those words are at the end of our Pledge of Allegiance, and they have real core meaning as part of our American identity. They are spoken so often by us as we look at the flag for which millions of Americans – gay and straight – have fought to defend at home and on battlefields around the world.
As readers of Patch have read during these past few days, the legislature will shortly re-open a debate on gay marriage. There are those who want to repeal the law that Governor John Lynch signed in June 2009, making New Hampshire the fifth state to adopt marriage equality.
Since that law became effective on Jan. 1, 2010 until this week, 1,866 same-gender marriages have been celebrated. Just think about that. Almost 4,000 of our citizens who call New Hampshire “home” have made a commitment to share their love and caring for the special person in their lives. We should all feel proud of that. It makes each of us better. And New Hampshire stronger.
Gay marriage is about equality and liberty, and here in our state we adopted it the old “New Hampshire Way.” No out-of-state interests, no group or organization or individual from elsewhere asked me to introduce the legislation. Those of us who fought for it wanted to end discrimination, and to see all of our citizens treated as equals.
Equality in marriage is good for New Hampshire. I believe it is a strong statement that we appreciate and welcome the diversity of our nation. What a wonderful lesson that is to our future generations. Our diversity is a special gift to us, and we should share it, never limit it. Our state has appreciated diversity for centuries, welcoming people from other countries, showing religious tolerance, and letting people live their lives.
In America, we have never taken rights away, and in the "Live Free Or Die" state I expect we will follow that tradition. We don't do that here. We're better than that. Fairness. Equality. That’s the true American dream, and a core American value. With liberty. And justice. For all. None of us should rest until we have helped reach that dream, and made those words real.
Jim Splaine of Portsmouth served 30 years in the N. H. House and Senate. In 2009 he was primary sponsor of House Bill 436, which created the marriage equality law.