When pressed by AP reporter Norma Love and others in the media, House Majority leader DJ Bettencourt was perfectly vague regarding leadership's position on gay marriage when he outlined the GOP legislative priorities last week.
Well he should have been. As DJ noted, any one of 400 Reps has the right to introduce any bill on any subject. Repeal of gay marriage is not a leadership priority.
"Yes, but will you oppose these bills?" DJ was asked.
“Repeal of gay marriage is not our priority”, he repeated.
Clear? Like muddied crystal!
What's a leader to do? There are at least four factions on gay marriage within the GOP ranks. A dozen or so of us (yes, me especially) voted for gay marriage and are passionately committed to equality for all. We believe that to the extent marriage is good for society; gay marriage is also good for society. After all, it creates stability in relationships and will cut down on promiscuity in the gay community, to about the same extent that marriage cuts down on heterosexuals running around on each other.
I could (and probably will) go on and one. Suffice it to say that while our ranks are small in the Republican Party, we are immutable, and Democrats would never have passed the gay marriage bill without us. We will never be able to prevent Republicans from forming a majority to repeal it, but without giving away any strategy here, we might well be able to cobble together a coalition with Democrats to uphold Governor John Lynch's veto.
Leader Bettencourt may well have had that in mind during his moments of muddying the water, but then, he has three other factions to consider.
I truly believe that DJ is among those who, although they did not vote for gay marriage, don't really want to see it repealed. I suspect his deputy Shawn Jasper might be in this camp. Vice Chair of the Labor Committee Will Infantine, a consummate moderate and leader in Manchester, emailed me that he will not vote for repeal. Without people like DJ, Shawn, and Will, the third Republican faction, the virulently anti-gay marriage folks, will probably not prevail in the long run.
Election Law Chair David Bates, of Windham, and Manchester's Leo Pepino are certainly in this group. They may well stand ready to defy leadership should any attempt be made to table the issue. Many Reps in this group come from the conservative House Republican Alliance which in large part is responsible for Bill O'Brien being Speaker; Bob Mead, who resigned as Rep to become O'Brien's chief of staff, would certainly be in this anti-gay marriage group. Thus the dilemma for leadership.
However, the waters are muddied even further by a fourth faction, a growing force led by many Republican newbies who want to do away not only with gay marriage but to get government out of the business of marriage altogether. Peter Bolster has a bill to do this. Andy Manuse of Derry is certainly in their ranks, and I could name many more names. To me, this is the most radical idea of all...and while I may be a radical, I don't suspect Republican leadership (and probably not even Democratic leadership) wants to go there.
Thus the brilliant albeit perfectly vague position from leader Bettencourt.
Prediction—A majority of Republicans in the House and Senate will vote to repeal gay marriage but they will fail to override John Lynch's veto. My sole caveat is that Democrats have proven themselves stupid enough to blow the whole thing, and if they succeed in making this an "us vs. them" issue, Democrats and pro gay marriage supporters will end up driving moderate Republicans into a “circle the wagons” mentality. In that case, the dozen people me will not be enough to stop repeal.
Sound far-fetched? I received an email just like week from former Manchester Rep Robert Thompson, who wedded January 2, 2010. His words in our back and forth were offensive, and while that will never drive me in the anti-gay marriage camp, I suspect he and his ilk are doing more to hurt than to help the gay marriage cause at this point. My advise to them--shut up!