Should Presidential Candidates Get Involved with N.H. Marriage Debate?
Will marriage equality play a role in the New Hampshire primary?
With a vote on a bill that would repeal the state’s marriage equality law that could potentially coincide with the Jan. 10 presidential primary, this question remains all too real possibility. Will raising the issue with independent-minded New Hampshire voters prove an effective campaign strategy?
"My sense is that it would not serve a candidate’s interests in New Hampshire to highlight that issue," said Dante Scala, an associate professor of political science at the University of New Hampshire. "It’s just not something that most New Hampshire Republicans consider a key issue."
A UNH Survey Center poll conducted between Sept. 26 and Oct. 2 found that 62 percent of New Hampshire voters oppose efforts to repeal the law, while 81 percent of respondents said marriage equality in the Granite State has not impacted their life. Forty-four percent of New Hampshire voters said they are actually more likely to vote against a candidate who backs the bill.
A coalition of groups that oppose the repeal measure unveiled a new ad earlier this month with three Republicans and one Democrat who urge state lawmakers to vote against it, but this opposition has not stopped several GOP presidential candidates from speaking out in support of the bill.
Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney told a gay Army veteran as he sat next to his husband in a Manchester restaurant earlier this month that he supports efforts to repeal the state’s marriage equality law. Texas Gov. Rick Perry applauded the bill’s sponsor, state Rep. David Bates (R-Windham,) and other lawmakers who back the measure in a speech he gave at the Cornerstone Action’s annual banquet in late October. Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman described the federal Defense of Marriage Act as serving a "useful purpose" at an event at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., earlier this month, but a volunteer for former House Speaker Newt Gingrich told EDGE in the campaign’s downtown Manchester offices on Monday, Dec. 26, that Republican presidential candidates should stay out of the debate over the state’s marriage equality law.
"In fact, most New Hampshire Republicans with their party would spend less time and energy focusing on such issues," added Scala.