On the same day that Vermont legislators voted to legalize same-sex marriage, New Hampshire political figures and members of the Dartmouth Political Union debated the issue in a standing room only auditorium in the Rockefeller Center.
Bishop Gene Robinson of the Episcopal Diocese of New Hampshire, an openly gay proponent of same-sex marriage, debated Kevin Smith, executive director for Cornerstone Policy Research, a think tank that advocates for “strong families, limited government and free markets,” according to its web site.
Smith and Robinson each gave opening statements and answered questions from the audience. They then gave speeches responding to their opponent’s opening statement.
Members of the Dartmouth Political Union and other attendees also presented arguments, alternating between speakers supporting and opposing the legislation.
Smith argued that a child must be raised by a mother figure and a father figure.
He cited his own experience raising his children as evidence of the different roles that mothers and fathers play.
“Each bring their own intrinsic values to the table,” Smith said, adding in a later speech that “men and women are not interchangeable.”
He also referred to his experience working with children who come from homes where they lack father or mother figures.
“I’ve seen the effect that broken homes have on a child,” Smith said. “It’s pretty destructive.”
Robinson, who also has children, argued that the only difference between children raised by homosexual couples and those raised by heterosexual ones is that the former are generally “more tolerant.”
“Maybe we ought to require children to grow up in a same-sex household so that they are more tolerant,” Robinson quipped, eliciting laughter from the audience.
He further suggested that state efforts to outlaw same-sex marriage based on the argument that children must be protected could logically require the state to take action against all potentially dangerous households, including any home where alcohol is consumed.
The debaters also discussed the wider-reaching implications of passing gay marriage legislation.
Several speakers supportive of same-sex marriage argued that some government officials are hesitant to support the legislation because they are concerned about public response.
“The legislature’s having a hard time [passing the legislation] because the religious right has hijacked and holds hostage the Bible,” Robinson said. “Elected officials are afraid they won’t get reelected.”
Smith said that the logic justifying same-sex marriage could also require states to permit polygamist groups and incestuous relationships.
“Where do you draw the line?” he said. “We’re going to provide equal protection for one group, but we’re not going to provide it for another groups?”
Other New Hampshire politicians present at the debate included former Lebanon Mayor Karen Liot Hill ’00, state Sen. Matthew Houde, D-Plainfield, and state Rep.
Robert Thompson, D-Manchester. Ryan Marvin, director of the New Hampshire Coalition for Equal Rights was also in attendance.