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Gay marriage: A big signal from NH GOP

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The vote margins were razor thin two years ago, when a Democratic-controlled legislature in New Hampshire allowed same-sex couples to marry. Yet when a repeal bill came up for a vote Wednesday in a House that now has an overwhelming Republican majority, the vote wasn’t even close. The repeal bill failed by a nearly 2-to-1 majority; even most Republican members opposed it. But maybe that shouldn’t be surprising: As the legislative debate showed, preserving same-sex marriage is a natural fit with the libertarian streak that animates many in the New Hampshire GOP.

Marriage opponents in New Hampshire may have overreached by including in the repeal bill a provision for a voter referendum — a position that reportedly irked some members of the most representative chamber in any state legislature. But more than that, the vote margin reflects what has and hasn’t happened in the last two years. More than 1,900 couples are more secure in their rights, while nobody else has been affected one way or another. While major gay-rights organizations were instrumental in defeating the repeal bill, key efforts also came from Republican businesspeople across the country who want their party to move past the issue. There’s now a model for them in New Hampshire, where lawmakers are taking the state’s “live free or die’’ motto seriously.

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