Thursday, March 15, 2007

HB 791

On March 14, the NH House Judiciary Committee heard testimony on HB 791, a bill that would grant civil marriage to NH's gay couples.

This is my testimony:

My name is Susan Bruce. I’m from Jackson, NH. I am here today as a woman, a wife, a mother, a member of a Unitarian Universalist congregation, and an advocate for social justice.

We all agree that families strengthen our communities, our state, and our country. You will hear a great deal of testimony today that invokes terms like “protecting marriage.” I’m not sure what we are trying to protect marriage from. No one here is suggesting we do away with the institution of marriage; in fact, I’m here to urge you to broaden our definition of marriage, to include same gender couples. Families that have already been created will be protected under the laws of our state. More people will be able to marry, more families will be created, and our communities and our state will be stronger as a result. Why wouldn’t we want to encourage and protect the families of our state?

I belong to a religious denomination that embraces diversity, and would gladly marry gay couples, but I understand that this is not the case for all religions. HB 791 grants civil marriage, thereby eliminating religion altogether, which means that no church will be forced to perform a ceremony it isn’t comfortable with. This is both sensitive and sensible public policy.

In the history of our country, laws that discriminated against groups of people have been changed, as we have become more enlightened. Slavery was abolished. Black men were given the right to vote. Women were finally given the right to vote. Interracial couples were given the right to marry. Segregation was abolished – in schools and in our communities. None of us look back and long for the good old days of segregation. The New Hampshire legislature has the opportunity to make the same kind of choice – to change a law that is currently discriminatory. In the decades to come, we will not look back and long for the good old days of marriage discrimination. We will be too busy accepting the congratulations of our children and grandchildren for righting a wrong, and making history.

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