Well, at the stroke of midnight yesterday (if you’ll pardon the expression), civil unions became law here in New Hampshire. 23 couples plighted their troths (or as nearabout as is legal) at the State House in Concord. And, astonishingly, there was no plague of frogs and no one turned into a pillar of salt.
I have to say I’m rather proud of this accomplishment. Other states and jurisdictions have dabbled in it, but they’ve all had it blow up in their faces.
In Vermont, the legislature passed a civil union bill. But the people were so rip-shit over it, they promptly tossed out most of the backers of the measure, and turned the state government Republican with the express mandate of undoing the law.
In two cities, mayors decided to make their own laws and started issuing marriage licenses willy-nilly to every Adam and Steve, Madam and Eve. And then got thumped by higher authorities.
And then there’s Massachusetts. Massachusetts, where the Supreme Judicial Court told the legislature that if they didn’t make some law regarding gay marriage, they would — and then did, making it legal by a vote of 4-3. Then the legislature got all worked up and did… nothing. Then the people got angry at such a major matter being decided by four unelected people in a way that seemed grossly improper (if not outright illegal) and started pushing for a chance for a state-wide referendum on the question.
That’s when the legislature found some backbone. They then did everything they could within the law — and without it — and repeatedly killed the ballot question. Unfortunately, while the state Constitution is clear that the legislature had a legal obligation to authorize the ballot question, there was no enforcement clause — they could simply refuse and there wasn’t a goddamned thing anyone could do about it short of tossing out the legislators in the next election.
Nope, leave it to New Hampshire to show the rest of the nation how it’s done.
OK, it wasn’t exactly an ideal demonstration. Very few of the backers of the civil union law ran for election on that issue. Hardly anyone expected that civil unions would be a top priority of the newly-Democratic legislature, but it was — kind of like how Bill Clinton made “gays in the military” one of his top priorities right after he first came to office.
But we have a way to deal with that. Those lawmakers who pushed for the civil unions are up for re-election next November, and they can’t hide from their record. If enough New Hampshirites are annoyed at them, those legislators (and our governor, who signed the bill into law) will be looking for something else to do in their free time next year.
I don’t think it will happen that way. I think that civil unions are here to stay in New Hampshire. It fits in with our “mind your own business” mentality. As long as they don’t do it in the streets and frighten the horses, we don’t want to know what you do in private. And if civil unions are the price of keeping the gays from demonstrating in public like they do in San Francisco (I think the weather might be a factor, too — the season for public nudity is considerably shorter, and cold has rather unattractive effects on even the most flamboyant gay man), then it’s a small price to pay.
And in a few years, once civil unions have proven to be no big deal, we might even see legalized gay marriage here in New Hampshire. And that would be just fine with me.