Opponents say prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation will invalidate bestiality laws

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With little fanfare, the New Hampshire Senate unanimously approved an amendment to the state Constitution last week that would prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation.

State Sen. David Pierce (D-Etna), the amendment’s prime sponsor, says the constitutional protection is needed despite the state’s leadership on marriage equality. “There are elements within the New Hampshire Legislature that still want to roll back those protections,” he told the Concord Monitor. “With a constitutional amendment, they cannot roll back those protections.”

And right on cue, an organized effort to block the amendment emerged in the form of a “Keep ‘sexual orientation’ out of the NH Constitution” Facebook page and an online petition.

"This amendment could invalidate existing laws against bigamy, incest, adultery, prostitution, bestiality, and other obscene sexual practices," the unnamed sponsors warn.

State House Rep. John Burt (R-Goffstown) voiced support for the group. “Sadly the House will vote this in,” he wrote, “but there is no way the voters of NH would pass this.”

If the House also approves the amendment, it will be placed on the November ballot and will become law if two-thirds of the voters support it.


Kelly Ayotte in middle of next battle in GOP civil war

The next battle in the civil war between the state’s Republican establishment and conservative activists is taking place in the U.S. Senate over what has been called the most important civil rights bill of the decade.

The Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), which would prohibit workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity, is headed for a Senate vote, perhaps as early as next week.

With support from 52 Democrats and four Republicans, proponents are within four votes of assembling a filibuster-proof majority. Roll Call’s David Hawkings writes Sen. Kelly Ayotte is one of six undecided Republican senators being targeted in a major push by advocates:

That the focus is on Republicans is a sign that LGBT advocates sense an opening to capitalize on efforts by the party establishment to grow their base in order to prevent a takeover by tea partyers and culture warriors, which could debilitate the GOP’s national prospects for years.

The New Hampshire College Republicans urged Ayotte to support the legislation. “College Republicans have long looked to Senator Ayotte as someone who could represent the future of the Republican Party,” wrote NHCR Chairman Jake Wagner. “It is imperative that she and others in the GOP care about the views and interests of the younger generation; especially at a time when their brothers, sisters, friends, and classmates will be personally impacted by the passage of ENDA.”

Representing the party establishment, New Hampshire’s Republican National Committee members expressed strong support. In a Concord Monitor op-ed, Stephen Duprey wrote, “As a businessman, a Republican, and a citizen of this great republic, I believe everyone has the right to work hard and be judged by the work they do. This is a bedrock American and New Hampshire principle and one that has fueled our economy for generations.” Juliana Bergeron added, “I see absolutely no reason why we should leave hardworking people vulnerable simply because they’re gay,”

Cornerstone’s Ashley Pratte spoke for social conservatives who oppose the legislation. “If our country accepts ENDA as federal law not only would it be unenforceable, it will spur litigation that in turn could be used to intimidate people of faith in companies that can’t afford lawsuits,” she wrote in an email to John DiStaso. “This legislation would create thousands more lawsuits and as a result would have a negative impact on small businesses across the country if passed.”


Herald: ‘Thumbs up’ to Splaine for efforts to end DOMA

Tuesday, the Portsmouth City Council voted to sign onto a “friend of the court” brief opposing the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). Portsmouth joins dozens of cities around the country in opposing the act, which defines marriage as between one man and one woman for federal law.

The Portsmouth Herald gave the council a “thumbs up” for the action and singled out former state Rep. Jim Splaine for making it happen:

Thumbs up also go to Jim Splaine, a former lawmaker who helped lead the effort to pass same-sex marriage in New Hampshire four years ago, for encouraging the council to join the fight.

New Hampshire is among a growing number of states to end discrimination against same-sex couples. It is time for the federal government to also acknowledge that we no longer live in a time when our brothers and sisters, neighbors and friends can be denied their rights because of their sexual orientation.

As Splaine proved in New Hampshire, you keep up the good fight until the right resolution is reached. The council signing on to the effort to repeal DOMA is one small step along the way.

The council’s action was the “right thing to do,” said Splaine. “DOMA really does hurt people, Portsmouth has a long history of being respectful and non-discriminatory to all citizens regardless of their backgrounds.”


Hall of Shame: 85 Vote to Legalize Discrimination

Last week, 85 New Hampshire lawmakers voted to exempt business owners and their employees from the state’s civil rights laws if they deny wedding services based on their “conscience or religious faith.”

House Bill 1264 was clearly aimed at same-sex marriages, but the bill would have hypothetically protected the right to discriminate against any union, including interracial and interdenominational marriages.

For that reason, Rep. Barry Palmer said, the bill would have violated state and federal laws including the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964 and other nondiscrimination statutes.

"This is not a religious exemption, this is a red herring," he complained. "This sounds more like 1950s Mississippi than 21st century New Hampshire."

The bill was defeated, but 85 GOP House members voted to turn back the clock and legalize discrimination. The full list follows below the fold.

h/t: Shir Haberman

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Rep. Bates: OK to Discriminate Against Gays & Lesbians

Rep. David Bates, prime sponsor of the bill to repeal New Hampshire’s same-sex marriage statute, is quite upfront about his homophobia. There is no justification, he says, for treating gays and lesbians as equal citizens with the same rights and privileges as heterosexuals.

“Civil rights have to do with intrinsic qualities that a person just can’t change,” such as race or gender, Bates said. Homosexuality doesn’t meet that criterion, he said, adding that not long ago it was referred to as “sexual preference.”

“There’s no other example of any basis that we afford a civil right based upon a behavior or a preferential choice,” he said.


House Bill 1264: “La Cage aux Jim Crow”

House Bill 1264 would allow anyone to deny accommodations, goods, or services for a marriage if doing so would violate his or her conscience or religious faith. While the bill does not specifically mention same-sex marriages, the intent is clear.

This bill is stark evidence, writes Cord Jefferson, that we can no longer deny the parallels between the gay rights movement and the American civil rights movement.

Writing for USA Today last year, black journalist Ellis Cose called the gay rights-black rights comparison a “false equivalency.” Anti-black racism, he wrote, “was relentlessly oppressive, as entire communities were cordoned off and disadvantage was handed down through generations. With gays, we are not looking at roped-off communities.”

A shocking new bill in New Hampshire may be enough to change the minds of Cose and his ilk.

If African-Americans—or anyone else, for that matter, would like to continue to argue that the gay rights movement bears no strong resemblance to the civil rights movement, I’d suggest they take a serious look at this new bill in New Hampshire. Indeed, while there are currently no anti-gay, Jim Crow-style blockades at Americans businesses, it’s not for lack of trying.


DOD: Same-Sex Spouses May Attend Family Events

Chief Warrant Officer Charlie Morgan, the New Hampshire National Guard soldier who recently returned from deployment in Kuwait, will be bringing her same-sex partner of 11 years to a yellow ribbon family reintegration event in North Conway this weekend.

Federal military regulations had previously banned same-sex spouses of National Guard Members from participating in official National Guard family events. The rules were based on an interpretation of the Defense of Marriage Act, which prohibits the extension of military benefits to same sex couples. Tuesday, Sen. Jeanne Shaheen sent a letter to Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta urging the Department of Defense “in the strongest terms” to end the discriminatory policy.

“We made the decision as a nation that it was time to allow gay and lesbian soldiers to serve openly in our military,” Shaheen said. “It makes no sense to ask them for the same sacrifice we ask of straight soldiers while denying them the same benefits. We are better than this.”

Yesterday, the Department of Defense ruled that Chief Morgan may take advantage of a regulation that allows service members to designate any one person, regardless of relationship, to join her at a yellow ribbon event.

“This is terrific news for Charlie Morgan and her family,” said Shaheen. “But this is just one small part of a much larger problem. We have a fundamental inequity in our policy, which has created two classes of soldiers. It isn’t fair and it has to end.” 

“Ultimately, this conflict in our military policy is not sustainable,” Shaheen said. “We cannot ask the members of our military to live under different standards depending on whether they are gay or straight. I urge the military to do all it can under the law to promote equality in their regulations, and I urge Congress to join me in the fight to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act.”


Ballard: Replace Baldasaro as Veterans Affairs Chair

State Senate candidate Jeff Ballard, an Afghanistan War veteran, today called on state House Speaker Bill O’Brien to remove Rep. Al Baldasaro as Chair of the House Veterans Affairs Committee.

"Rep. Baldasaro should have immediately apologized for his shameful comments after the Republican Presidential Debate. … Rep. Baldasaro may have freedom of speech, but it exists because Stephen Hill, the veteran he called a ‘disgrace,’ risked his own life to protect it.

"With such statements [Baldasaro] is bringing discredit on our Military’s Senior Non-Commissioned Officers whose role is not to make policy, but rather to enforce it and maintain order within the ranks. … Rep Baldasaro’s statements undermine his fellow Senior NCO’s who are trying to maintain good order and military readiness during our ongoing hostilities in Afghanistan and contingency operations around the globe.

"Republican House Speaker Bill O’Brien should immediately call for him to resign and remove him as Chair of the Veterans Affairs Committee in the State House." (NHDP release)

Baldasaro had expressed his disgust with Stephen Hill, a gay soldier serving in Iraq, who asked a question about gays and lesbians in the military during the last Republican presidential debate. Baldasaro added that he “thought it was great” when the audience booed Hill.


Rep. Baldasaro Responds: It’s That Shower Thing

New Hampshire Rep. Al Baldasaro defends his comments applauding the booing of a gay soldier during the last Republican presidential debate. It’s that shower thing.

I served my country for 22 years on active duty Honorable as a Marine, Desert Storm Veteran and I had no issues with the don’t ask, don’t tell policy because as a US Marine, we sleep, eat, drink and shower side by side for months at a time in training or on the battle field. I have an issue with knowing that a fellow Marine in the shower with me who is gay.


Rep. Baldasaro Applauds Booing of Gay Soldier

During the last Republican presidential debate, the audience booed a gay soldier serving in Iraq who asked a question about gays serving in the military. None of the candidates on stage defended him at the time, but after a firestorm of criticism, several candidates subsequently expressed their regret at not speaking up in his defense.

Not so for New Hampshire state Rep. Al Baldasaro (R-Londonderry) who says he was “disgusted” by the soldier and thought the audience reaction was “great.”

Discussing the audience’s boos, Baldasaro said the real issue was the fact that Hill divulged his sexual orientation in the first place. “I was so disgusted over that gay marine* coming out,” Baldasaro said, because now Hill’s fellow soldiers will “start getting away from him” and “start ignoring him.” Baldasaro even speculated that because Hill came out of the closet, other soldiers might not protect him when “the shit hits the fan” in battle.

KEYES: Did you have an issue with the audience reaction?

BALDASARO: Oh no, I thought the audience, when they booed the marine, I thought it was great.

h/t: ThinkProgress


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