N.H. Senate committee takes up gay marriage bill

Wednesday, April 15
CONCORD, N.H.- Lawmakers arriving for a hearing on whether to allow gay marriage in New Hampshire were greeted Wednesday by dueling demonstrations outside the Statehouse, an emotional encounter that created some face-to-face confrontations.

"Ignorant bigot," a man who supports gay marriage called a woman who was carrying a sign that said "Grow up already. It's not just about you."

Several hundred people against gay marriage and a smaller number supporting it gathered in separate groups on the Statehouse plaza, mixing briefly as they headed into the building for a Senate committee hearing on whether New Hampshire should be the fourth state to allow gay marriage.

The state House has approved the bill. Gov. John Lynch opposes gay marriage but has not said specifically that he would veto it. If the legislation becomes law, New Hampshire would join Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont and Iowa in allowing gay marriage.

As they mixed, some from the pro-gay marriage group shouted "Love means everyone," prompting opponents to counter: "Support traditional marriage."

Earlier, gay marriage supporter Tom Keeler, of Concord, held a megaphone blaring "We Shall Overcome" and civil rights speeches. "Civil rights," he said. "That's all there is to this. There is a minority being oppressed by a majority."

A man carrying a "Vote No," sign repeatedly tried blocking Keeler's megaphone.

At the anti-gay marriage gathering a short distance away, Fenton Groen, of Rochester, was distributing stickers with the message: "Marriage, 1 man, 1 woman."

Government and society sanction marriage, he said, because marriage gives benefits to society, "through stability, through the rearing of children, the propagation of values. Those reasons aren't just because two people love each other. That's why it's not a civil right."

The Senate hearing will include testimony from opposing bishops.

Gene Robinson, New Hampshire's openly gay Episcopal bishop, was to testify for the proposal. Roman Catholic Bishop John McCormack has submitted testimony in opposition.


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