Freedom and equality under the law for all. In New Hampshire, we sometimes take this for granted. But our state constitution says that equality of rights under the law shall not be denied to anyone on account of race, creed, color, sex, or national origin.
Yet 23 New Hampshire senators seemingly want to pick and choose who gets freedom and equal treatment, and who doesn’t. Two weeks ago, they voted to add the novel legal concept of “sexual orientation” to the state constitution via CACR 17. The proposed constitutional amendment will soon go to the New Hampshire House and — if it receives the necessary three-fifths majority — will go on the ballot statewide this November.
This intrusive restructuring of our state constitution would be a first in the nation. No other state has attempted to place in a document that is supposed to protect everyone special protections for some, and coercion for others. No other state has attempted to create victims of discrimination in such a fashion, nor attempted to compromise and unjustifiably burden First Amendment freedoms that should rightly be enjoyed by every citizen.
New Hampshire legislators should recall that freedom is for all Americans. Indeed, their first responsibility as lawmakers is to protect and uphold our constitutionally protected freedoms, not pass and enact laws that guarantee special safeguards for some, but bully and punish others.
We are all currently protected under the New Hampshire constitution. So why the change? Why aren’t our lawmakers preserving freedom for everyone — something that is good for our economy, the business community, and our state. No one should have to beg the state to exercise their constitutionally protected freedoms. Yet that is exactly what this proposed constitutional amendment would do.
Notably, only the prime sponsor, Sen. David Pierce, D-Lebanon, testified in support of this change. But no senator questioned the detrimental impact of such a bill. No senator questioned how adding such a malleable legal construct into the law would affect the economy and businesses.
Not a single senator asked about the religious liberty implications of such a constitutional amendment, or how it would affect those individuals and businesses that adhere to traditional views on sexuality and marriage. What will it mean for an adoption agency, for example, that seeks to place children in homes with both a mom and a dad?
The day the CACR passed the full Senate, Sen. Pierce stated: “It’s a momentous day for me, personally, but it’s not about me. It’s a momentous day, I think, for the state that we’re committed to equality. ...”
But this proposed constitutional amendment would enact the opposite of equality. It would enact inequality under the law, allowing the selection of who gets freedom and who doesn’t — even punishing some New Hampshire citizens for simply exercising their freedoms. Such divisive treatment runs afoul of the nobility and diversity of our state. Freedom is not negotiable, and our lawmakers shouldn’t compromise our freedom. Everyone in New Hampshire, regardless of sexual orientation, deserves protection under the state constitution and enjoys such protection with its current language. New Hampshire lawmakers should be safeguarding these freedoms and not promoting unjust and coercive constitutional amendments under the façade of “equality.”
Passage of CACR 17, however, would suppress these freedoms, and citizens of this great state will likely face lawsuits for simply trying to exercise their freedoms.
Our state motto is “Live free or die.” Let’s not enact a measure that would change that motto to “Live free and be sued.” Legislators should oppose CACR 17 because freedom is not negotiable and sexual preference and behavior should never trump our fundamental freedoms.
Bryan McCormack is executive director of Cornerstone Action.