Saturday, September 17, 2011

One Can of Worms The NH State Legislature Might Not Want to Open

When I became a New Hampshire resident, I was fairly excited with an effort to reinforce the state’s 10th Amendment rights which put the overreach of the Federal government on notice. After reading this resolution, HCR6, I thought, “Awesome, these folks really get it!” At the time, I was sure that they believed in the state’s motto of “Live Free or Die”. But ultimately, they let me down. Much to my own disappointment, I suddenly realized after putting 2+2 together that many of the same people who advocated for the state’s rights resolution were also the pivotal forces behind NH’s anti-gay marriage legislation. How could it possibly be that the very lawmakers who were so keenly aware of the 10th Amendment could be so sadly oblivious to the intent of the 1st and 14th? I mean it seriously makes you wonder if the equal protection clause has ever had any solid meaning; that "no state shall ... deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws". 

But please don’t think me naïve; my entire adult life has unfolded under duress of being a congressional wedge issue hostage. Do they honestly believe they can claim something for themselves and deny it to others and still expect to be taken seriously? Friends had even suggested I take one of these representative’s Constitution classes. I now smirk and give a big eye roll because surely we have a case of two different hymnbooks here… because mine doesn’t have the foot note of: *Only applies if you’re straight. And the most laughable and contradictory part of these pro-state’s rights, anti-gay crusaders? Their initial claims of believing in “Jeffersonian principles”.

    “Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between man and his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legislative powers of government reach actions only, and not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should "make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof," thus building a wall of separation between church and State.” 

-Thomas Jefferson, Letter to Danbury Baptist Association, CT. (1 January 1802) [boldface mine]

    “They believe that any portion of power confided to me, will be exerted in opposition to their schemes. And they believe rightly; for I have sworn upon the altar of god eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man. But this is all they have to fear from me: and enough, too, in their opinion.”

-Thomas Jefferson, Letter to Dr. Benjamin Rush regarding the Danbury Baptists

Besides understanding the historical context in which Jefferson wrote those words, the most gut-wrenching part is that this particular quote: “I have sworn upon the altar of god eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man” is the very inscription in marble inside the rotunda of the Jefferson Memorial.

After all the mental obstacles I removed from my own thought process over the years, even I had come to realize the enormous differences between collective group rights and individual rights. Today, I understand all too well that I get my rights as an individual, not because I’m gay or female. But here they were in living color, NH legislators willing to use the force of government to declare that Group A has more privileges than Group B. Well, guess which group I happen to fall into. 

Could it be argued that this anti-gay legislation is anything other than Collectivism 101? The entire argument on who can and cannot marry exposes the pitfalls of religious collectivism and the detriments of getting entangled in legislating issues of ethics in general. Nevertheless, the same legislative promulgators of religious theocracy will undoubtedly be the very first to step up and declare from the highest NH mountaintops that they truly “love liberty”. Yeah sure, ‘liberty’ on your terms

I’m sorry to inform them that this collectivist group-think which looks to punish other people as categories is the very antithesis of real liberty: it’s authoritarian on its face. You don’t get to pick and choose which parts you like; real liberty is an ‘all or nothing’ package deal. Legislation to this effect is nothing more than government-sponsored tyranny for those who happen to be on the receiving end of not agreeing with you. And to no surprise, they’re back and once again bringing forth new legislation to repeal the recently passed gay marriage law and prohibit same-sex marriages and a second bill which would install an amendment that the state of New Hampshire will only recognize marriage as being between one man and one woman. 

Ten of the 14 House sponsors of the two upcoming anti-gay bills either supported or penned the “Jeffersonian principled” HCR6. Go figure. Do they not even have the self-awareness to understand that they are the very religious ideologues that Jefferson was shooting down?

Here’s my wager. How much do you want to bet that most, if not all, of the anti-gay supporters claim to be religious? And that their support for this legislation is indeed based on their religious grounds (read: opinions)? I’d almost be willing to say it’s 100%. Surely, I must have been an idiot for moving to NH assuming that Jefferson had cleared all of that up for you guys. 

So here we go again…. 

[Insert facepalm and big sigh here.]

And this is what will transpire: There will literally be an insane and obscene amount of money that will be thrown at wasted spent on both sides of the gay marriage issue. We might as well pile these millions into a large pit and set it ablaze for all to see. It ultimately has the same effect. And all of this unfortunate destruction of wealth (which might have otherwise been used as capital for positive economic ventures) is the result of a small, but adamant group of legislators who staunchly believe that their collectivist religious beliefs are somehow superior to anyone who disagrees with them. They probably aren’t aware that this speaks volumes to the depth of their conviction in their faith. It is the legislative proof that their beliefs are so ultimately fragile and weak that they desperately need the state to reinforce them. It’s quite a sad display, really, this insecurity. It’s as remarkable as a man who refuses to wear pink because he is afraid it will somehow make him look effeminate and his buddies will tease him relentlessly. Only confident men wear pink and this crowd proves they’re not confident enough in their beliefs to wear it. 

To them I would ask: If marriage, as you claim, is such a sacred covenant between you, your spouse and your Creator, then who is the higher authority in this matter? Your Creator? Or the state? Because from where I’m watching this next three-ringed circus unload for the umpteenth time, your repeated attempts at this makes the answer way too obvious that it is indeed the state who is the higher authority in your eyes. You make the baby Jesus cry and put a whole new meaning into the term “hell bent”. 

Anyone, like me, who has lived their entire adult life struggling in the minority margins for equality under the law can attest to endless dealings with this mentality. Where does it ever end? If you want the back-story, beyond the first ten minute re-cap of America’s “gay Auschwitz” history, the documentary film Stonewall Uprising will give an indication of how long this has been going on. But for those of us living in this oppressed skin daily, we constantly find ourselves asking at every legislative session at both the federal and state level, “What now? How are they trying to restrict my life now?” 

Having done this for the better part of 3 decades, I can tell you that they won’t relent and are as predictable as a good Swiss watch. I am so over my life being used as a wedge issue, folks, as I have yet to have one fellow NH citizen be disrespectful or admonish me on a personal level for being gay. I honestly believe that most folks here are kind and have a ‘live and let live’ attitude, but every other year these legislative forces insist on putting citizens through the emotional ringer when otherwise my gayness is pretty much a non-issue in everyday life. Why can’t they let it go?

As a nation, but moreover, as a republic, we have long lost the ideal that minority rights (in theory) are supposed to have the same weight and validity as majority rights. However, the vast appeal of collective group rights and the draw of privilege’s perks have succeeded in its place for much longer. We have unfortunately allowed the machinations of government to set up these inherently unconstitutional “laws” restricting equal treatment for everyone and thus giving those undeniable perks to one group legislated over another. 

After all of this time, have we not concluded that slavery was allowed to happen because of government ‘law’? That Jim Crow and segregation were both products of government ‘laws’? That restricting the right of women to hold property and denying them the right to vote was, in fact, due to government ‘laws’? This current issue, the attempt to deny equal treatment under law, is no different in principle. It has been exactly because of this forgotten understanding of the tenets of individual liberty which have resulted in the very legislative actions of ‘collectivist rights’ and majority rule. Lawyers and legislators have built entire careers out of marginalizing minorities. And in the end, they have traded the republic for a direct democracy. I cannot change what has happened during the course of our history, but I sincerely wish we could just evolve at some point. I’m tired.

Besides the obvious: peaceful gay people being unwittingly forced to face a religious faction who would use the strong arm of government to restrict our equal representation, this type of law makes everyone, regardless of your sexuality or religion, subservient to the collectivist religious ideals of this small group under the pretense of a ‘legal’ government decree. That in itself should make secular heterosexuals uncomfortable. Who is the real special interest group here? I frankly don’t want to live under theocratic ‘laws’ and sadly, I was under the impression that the 1st Amendment denotes my inalienable, creator-given right to this notion. 

Have we completely forgotten that our rights do not come from the government, or the Constitution, or the Bill of Rights and that these man-made documents are nothing more than mirrors to reflect the fact that “we hold these truths to be self-evident”? How is this religious-tempered “repeal and ban” legislation which restricts my equal treatment in any way different than those who rant hysterically about the impositions of theocratic Sharia law? In short, there is absolutely no difference. Religious law is religious law no matter who or what religion is pushing for it. Is that so difficult a concept to grasp? It seems that it is for the tunnel vision of the “My Way or The Highway” types. Alas and alack, already. Maybe if they were to add The Kids are Alright or The Birdcage to their Netflix cues, they might just see the abject silliness plus the sheer waste of time, money, and needless emotionality in all of this. As a bonus, a good movie may even illicit a healthy chuckle or two and lower your blood pressure some.

So this is the stage that is currently being set. As your smart gay friend and fellow lover of individual liberty, I’m raising the gale force wind flag as a visual precaution before you go and make a big national spectacle of yourselves because this will certainly be an issue on the nation’s radar. If the NH state legislature decides to pursue these bills and enact state-sanctioned discrimination, then expect that the state economy could potentially suffer as a direct reactionary consequence. There will be repercussions to consider deeply before you make your decisions. The gay community at large and its straight supporters, both across the nation and the globe, will undoubtedly react negatively if these bills were to pass. If so, NH will gain the title of the new Hate State for this discriminatory hostility. Actions have consequences and I would not be surprised to see the gay community react with an all-out financial boycott of All Things New Hampshire. It’s happened before. Our state legislators might take it upon themselves to explore just how well that worked economically for Colorado in 1992. It’s high time to look out the window and recognize that not everyone has a view as narrow as those who would seek to repeal gay marriage and more importantly: that every action has an equal and opposite reaction. Gay people have learned that voting with their wallets actually works. So I’m here to be your smart friend to prepare you for the can of worms you could potentially unleash. You do not live in a vacuum, but your legislative actions might just create one. 

Shortly before the widespread advent of the internet, a national gay and gay-friendly boycott had serious ramifications on Colorado’s businesses and tourism after they foolishly decided to mandate state-sanctioned discrimination against the inalienable rights of individuals who happened to be gay. The Colorado majority might have won their fight, but they surely lost the battle. In 1993 alone, losses due to Boycott Colorado’s efforts were estimated at $40 million dollars. By 1995 when SCOTUS struck down the amendment as unconstitutional, the boycott losses had climbed to $120 million dollars. With inflation adjustments, those losses translate respectively to $63.5 and $190.5 million dollars in 2011 terms. Tell me that didn’t hurt, but this is what you might expect should you chose to go this route. Small NH businesses couldn’t afford that kind of additional hit in this ‘recession’.

Legalizing state-enforced discrimination will only serve to diminish your constituent’s businesses and tourism as gay people, their friends, families, and supporters will inevitably chose to spend their dollars elsewhere, like Vermont and Massachusetts. Ski resorts, bed-and-breakfasts, hotels, restaurants, lake and mountain activities, vacation home and cottage rentals, second home purchases, gasoline sales and shopping are but just a few areas that will feel the economic brunt of a national gay boycott of the Granite State. Industries will also not be immune as out-of-state city municipalities and companies stopped their purchase order contracts and groups canceled conventions during the Colorado boycott. Kiss all that gay wedding-related tourism revenue goodbye, too. And many of those Mass and Vermont license plates we’ve become accustomed to seeing in the Best Buy parking lot could wither as well.

The Boycott Colorado effort garnered national media attention on NBC News with Tom Brokaw, Time Magazine, The Boston Globe and Herald, The Washington Post, The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, The Seattle Times, The Chicago Tribune, The Sun-Sentinel, Knight-Ridder, The Advocate, The Village Voice, every national gay publication, and every local gay newspaper on the planet.… and most notably: all before the internet explosion had occurred. People are much more connected and word spreads incredibly fast these days. This very blog is read in a dozen countries around the globe. I do wonder how an effort to boycott NH will be amplified drastically across the nation and around the world in this modern information and social network setting. The economic fallout could reasonably be far worse than that which Colorado experienced. 

It’s time to wake up and smell the coffee because the perfect storm of economic backlash is brewing. Neither the “My Way or The Highway” bunch, nor the rest of the NH state legislature in general, have yet to realize that they couldn’t have chosen a worse time for their constituents to face the social and economic recoil of the very narrow-minded and self-serving choices of a few. After coming this far, if the marriage issue continues to get pressed, then the gay community certainly has both the disposable incomes and the deep personal experiences to show NH what it’s like to be marginalized and left out of the crowd.

To add insult to injury, if these measures pass and there were to be a national/international gay boycott of NH in this cyber age, you can bet your bottom dollar that disgruntled local folks will participate in it as well. Smart advocates know that instead of putting gas in their cars and visiting local retailers that it’s now become rather easy to make out-of-state purchases online and have them home delivered since the UPS driver will be coming by anyway. In other words, unlike the events in Colorado, you can count on in-state boycott resistance too, as well as the external pressure. So with the emergence of the internet plus the fact that 7% of the NH population are your gay neighbors*, an all-out gay and gay-friendly economic boycott could make Colorado’s woes in ’92-‘95 seem like a drop in the bucket today, were it to happen in NH. (<--This.) You could not have picked a worse time in history to suffer the wrath of an economic boycott. Something that bears some in-depth consideration, I’d say, for both legislators and citizens. Colorado sure didn’t see it coming. 

*(according to 2000 Census data, but actual numbers are likely to be closer to 9%.)

Besides the wastefulness of the millions of dollars that will be engulfed yet again into the monetary black hole of no return in another attempt at theocratic ‘law’, people of whatever persuasion are growing rather tired of it. Instead, what NH state legislators should be working on is how to get government out of everyone’s marriage and give it a rest. But what I would suggest in the interim is leaving well enough alone by not allowing this upcoming legislative effort see the light of day. Let it go away and die a nice quiet death. Once government is out of the marriage business, then all of this animosity will fade out of the limelight. The prigs and ethical busybodies will have to focus their attention elsewhere.

And for those NH legislators who would sit on their hands and abstain from voting were these bills to come to the floor, I will kindly remind you of your oath to uphold the constitutions. You swore that, as the people’s representative, you would be the checks and balances and to be faithful in your duties to do so. Although very admirable in principle, if you abstain from voting for the reason that you do not believe it is the proper role of government to be involved in the marriage debate, then exactly who is going to be that very ‘check and balance’ representative for me in my minority position? The argument that the government plays no role is not what you’re voting on here; it isn’t the issue at hand. Your abstinence for an entirely different set of reasons will in no way protect me nor the inhabitants of this state from would-be theocratic “law” pushers. That’s what you’re voting on. Abstaining would be allowing the others, de jure, who hope to legislate that Group A has more privileges than Group B while you decided to watch quietly from the sidelines. Until we can do better, the reality of these discriminatory bills is what you’re faced with for the moment. Do not forget that history will forever mark where you stood (or sat silently) in this regard.

As a lesbian, it’s okay if you don’t agree with my life. I’m not asking you to. It’s fine if your church chooses to discriminate against me. I’m okay with that. It’s perfectly acceptable if in your world you believe that marriage is between one man and one woman. I frankly have no problem with what you believe. However, where I will sit up and take notice is when you want to use government as a tool to enforce your beliefs on everyone else and designate collective privileges in lieu of individual liberty equally for all people. The fact that I am gay causes no one any harm or fraud. As Jefferson said, “…it neither picks my pocket, nor breaks my leg.” Having a personal opinion is one thing, not understanding the role of government and trying to legislate your opinion is quite another. The time has long since arrived that if we honestly believe in this concept of “liberty and justice for all” and the state motto of “Live Free or Die”, well then it’s certainly time to start showing it. I choose not to tread on you. Is it too much to ask for the same in return?



  1. I couldn't agree more, though I think the focus should be on getting government out of marriage. Make *them* argue for bigger government.

    Wasn't it also Jefferson who said the only true purpose of government is to protect liberties? Whose liberty is protected by the man-woman definition? Can anybody point to a Lockean right being violated here?

    The theological argument is also weak, but arguing against religious belief with logic is not a short game. They'd have a anti-gay lobster bake and sell commemorative cotton/poly t-shirts at it, just to make the irony meter explode.

    There are problems with some of the other proposals, though (e.g. w/r/t mere registrations, what's the upper limit on marriage sizes and why?). I think a designation of non-genetic family is more workable, but somebody has to hammer out a workable and cohesive alternative so that something exists in order to gain traction. Anybody working on that?

  2. Rest assured, this is one Republican state representative who will not be sitting on his hands, should this matter reach the floor of the House in the near future.

    Great post.

    Bruce MacMahon
    NH State Representative
    Rockingham 10 - Brentwood

  3. I just moved to NH a week ago and this is what I come "home" to? I'm embarrassed and sickened that repealing gay marriage is a priority to anybody in the state legislature.

  4. Elizabeth, after the 2010 elections and during the celebrations that followed, (and I mean the night OF the elections and the day after) several of the new reps and supporters got together and tried to figure out if we had the votes to stop this monstrosity, because we could see it coming. I have to tell you that it's going to be very close, and we're going to have to convince some folks to vote the right way. Time to get busy!

  5. Honestly, I'd be concerned with fixing marriage before suggesting it's some kind of right. Unilateral no-fault divorce makes marriage a broken deal anyway. It results in sexual favoritism of women, and punishes men, while offering no concrete benefits.

    Ironically, were gay marriage to be legalized, they'd probably be the only people who can maintain legitimate contract enforcement, since the gender bias is eliminated.

  6. @Justus I'm not quite sure where you think I was saying that marriage is a right. It's not, and frankly government has no role in it anyway. Because government chooses to involve itself in marriage, it creates these patently unconstitutional 'laws'. The greater issue here that I think you've missed is that these bills violate the Federal 1st amendment (no establishment of religion) and the 14th, "no state shall ... deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws".

    It also violates several articles of the NH State constitutions Bill of Rights, most importantly Article 4:
    [Art.] 4. [Rights of Conscience Unalienable.] Among the natural rights, some are, in their very nature unalienable, because no equivalent can be given or received for them. Of this kind are the Rights of Conscience.

    See, this is more about them, certain members of the NH legislature, violating their oaths and, as a result my inalienable rights, in order to collectively give one group more privileges at the expense of another group. Not only do they not have any business doing this, it is terribly unconstitutional when my property rights are violated in this way to achieve their personal objectives. I could care less about marriage, per se. That's just a distraction from the greater issue of the multiple natural or inherent rights they are infringing upon in the process of legislating their opinions when they disagree with me.

    "Conscience is the most sacred of all property; other property depending in part on positive law, the exercise of that, being a natural and unalienable right."
    ~James Madison