New Hampshire

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Hump Day

In the quest for equal rights and sex education in America, some significant strides were made last week, regardless of how we all may feel about the results of the election.

After the announcement of President Barack Obama’s win, he made history by acknowledging LGBTQ rights in his victory speech.

“It doesn’t matter whether you’re black or white or Hispanic or Asian or Native American or young or old or rich or poor, abled, disabled, gay or straight. You can make it here in America if you’re willing to try,” Obama said.

As Obama stepped into four more years as president, news broke that Maine, Maryland and Washington all voted to legally recognize same-sex marriages. In addition, Minnesota voters rejected a proposed constitutional amendment to define marriages as being only between a man and a woman.

Shifting attitudes regarding LGBTQ rights in the electorate also were evident as Tammy Baldwin became the first openly gay politician elected into the U.S. Senate, Sean Patrick Maloney became the first openly gay politician to represent New York in Congress and Stacie Laughton was elected the first transgender legislator in New Hampshire.

In light of the overall election results, The Washington Post published a thought-provoking article about the photo of the President embracing Michelle Obama that went viral after the election. The author makes a case that the photo symbolizes a future of gender equality and “we may be parsing the broader cultural implications of this election for a long time to come.”

Not only does Obama’s re-election provide a hopeful future for gender and LGBTQ equality, it also has implications for the future of sex education.

Most people will engage in some form of sexual activity at some point in their life. Comprehensive sex education does not promote or encourage sexual activity but rather prepares us to be able to make educated decisions, free of coercion, when it comes to our sexual health. Comprehensive sex education teaches us about contraception, pregnancy, the importance of consent and how to avoid being peer pressured into sexual activity. Abstinence-only education, on the other hand, is often ridden with gender stereotypes, religious morals, scare tactics and inaccurate medical information.

President Obama’s re-election is good news for sex education, but opposition and challenges lie ahead. In 2009, the Obama administration cut funding from abstinence-only sex education and shifted to an evidence-based approach to address teen pregnancy rates and reduce sexually transmitted infections. The funding for abstinence-only education, however, was reinstated as social conservatives scored a whopping $250 million to be distributed over five years as an add-on to the Affordable Care Act.  

While it may take time for Texas to join the states of Connecticut, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Vermont, Washington, the District of Columbia and two Native American tribal jurisdictions to support equal marriage, the tides are slowly turning state by state. After all, in September the Austin City Council became the first group of city leaders in the state of Texas to endorse marriage equality. And although Austinites wish to “Keep Austin Weird,” perhaps soon same-sex marriage won’t be a token of our weirdness, but simply a statewide affirmation of equal rights for all couples. Perhaps we can live in a future free of “legitimate rape” comments where sex education is as common sense as teaching math, biology and English.

Printed on Wednesday, November 14, 2012 as: Strides toward equality taken in 2012 election

CONCORD, N.H. — New Hampshire lawmakers on Wednesday rejected a bill that would have made their state legislature the first one to repeal a gay marriage law, handing gay-rights supporters a key victory in the Northeast, where same-sex marriage is prevalent.

The state House voted 211-116 to kill the measure, ending a push by its new Republican majority to rescind New Hampshire’s two-year-old gay marriage law. Nevertheless, both sides are pledging to continue fighting into the fall elections.

Repeal opponents hoped to solidify what they argue is public support for gay marriage, while supporters hoped to reverse the law in a region of the country where gay-rights groups have strength.

“Today is a banner day for the freedom to marry,” said Craig Stowell, co-chairman of Standing up For New Hampshire Families. Stowell said the House, where Republicans hold the advantage, was supposed to give conservatives their best shot at repeal. “They blew it. This was supposed to be the most favorable legislative climate for repeal and they couldn’t even get a majority.”

The Republican-backed bill called for repealing gay marriage in March 2013 and replacing it with a civil unions law that had been in place in 2008 and 2009. Gay marriages occurring before the repeal took effect would have remained valid, but future gay unions would have been civil unions. The bill also would have allowed voters to weigh in on the issue through a nonbinding November ballot question.

Tom Czapieo, 63, of Keene, watched the House debate from the gallery with his partner, Mike Bellrose, 61. Czapieo said he was surprised and thrilled by the vote, even though he and Bellerose have no immediate plans to marry.

“I was born this way. I should have the right to marry who I want,” he said.

Bellrose noted that the House session began with the Pledge of allegiance, and quoted the ending passage: “with liberty and justice for all.”

“This certainly is a big step toward that,” Bellerose said.

Eleanor Vander Haegen, 71, of Keene, married her partner of 22 years in January 2010.

“It’s such a significant recognition of our human rights,” she said of the vote.

If the House passed the repeal measure following its two hours of debate, it would have gone to the Senate; both houses are controlled by Republicans. Democratic Gov. John Lynch had promised to veto the bill if it had reached his desk.

An attempt to strip out a provision in the legislation calling for voters to weigh in on the issue in November in a nonbinding ballot question was rejected, helping to seal the bill’s fate since some lawmakers objected that with a 400-member House, lawmakers should be able to make those decisions themselves.

State Rep. David Welch, R-Kingston, said he had opposed gay marriage, but the time for a repeal was past because “the Legislature has given certain rights to members of our community and now we’re being asked to take them away.”

The National Organization for Marriage has pledged to spend $250,000 to help lawmakers running for re-election who support repealing the law. On the other side, the New Hampshire Republicans of Freedom and Equality PAC is raising money to back Republicans who vote to retain it.

Democrats enacted both the civil unions and gay marriage laws when they controlled the Legislature, and Lynch signed both. After Republicans took control of the House and Senate in 2010, repeal legislative was introduced, but held over until this year. In Wednesday’s fight, Republicans took the lead on both sides of the debate.

The repeal legislation, sponsored by state Rep. David Bates, would ensure the 1,906 existing same-sex marriages would remain valid if the gay marriage law is repealed. Bates said it would replace the current “illegitimate definition” of marriage with one defining it as between one man and one woman.

Bates tried in vain to convince the House that supporting traditional marriage did not make someone a bigot.

State Rep. Warren Groen, R-Rochester, argued allowing gays to marry opened up the definition of marriage to polygamists and others with non-traditional lifestyles.

“We are indeed on a slippery slope,” Groen said.

Same-sex marriage is legal in New York, Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont, Maryland, Washington and the District of Columbia. New Jersey lawmakers recently passed a gay marriage bill, but the governor vetoed it. An override vote could come as late as January 2014.

Since 1998, 31 states have had ballot measures related to same-sex marriage, and opponents have prevailed in every state. Those states include Maine, where voters in 2009 rejected the state’s gay-marriage law.

Last month, a federal appeals court declared California’s same-sex marriage ban to be unconstitutional. The ruling could mean the bitterly contested, voter-approved law will be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

“You don’t need to be in the pew every Sunday to know there’s something wrong in this country when gays can serve openly in the military but our kids can’t openly celebrate Christmas or pray in school.”
— In a December ad courting social conservatives by appealing to Perry’s Christian faith.

“This is such a cool state. I mean come on. ‘Live free or die.’ You got to love that right? I come from a state, you know, where they have this little place called the Alamo and they declared, ‘Victory or death.’ We’re kind of into those slogans, man. It’s like, ‘live free or die,’ ‘victory or death.’ Bring it.”
— In a bizarrely energetic speech on Oct. 29 in New Hampshire.

“And I will tell you it’s three agencies of government when I get there that are gone: commerce, education and the, uh, what’s the third one there? Let’s see ... I would do away with the education, the, uh, commerce and let’s see, I can’t. ... Sorry. Oops.”
— When talking about his plans during the Nov. 9 Michigan debate to eliminate three federal agencies if elected president.

“Those of you that will be 21 by Nov. 12, I ask for your support and your vote.”
Misidentifying the voting age and the election date at a town hall meeting on Nov. 29 at the Institute of Politics in New Hampshire.

“When you see his appointment of two, from my perspective, inarguably activist judges, whether it was, uh, not Montemayor...”
In an attempt during a Dec. 9 interview with the Des Moines Register Editorial Board to name Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor when discussing what he believes is Obama’s war on religion.

AMHERST, N.H. — The Republican presidential contenders are tying themselves in knots over immigration.

Newt Gingrich is endorsing a South Carolina law that allows police to demand a person’s immigration status — a week after taking heat for advocating a “humane” approach. Rick Perry, though defending Texas’ in-state tuition for some illegal immigrants’ kids, spent Tuesday campaigning with a hardline Arizona sheriff in New Hampshire. And Mitt Romney is talking tough on immigration in his second White House campaign, though he previously supported the idea of allowing some illegal immigrants to stay in the U.S.

Meanwhile, many voters say immigration won’t determine which candidate they’ll back for the GOP nomination. Instead, they say they’re focused squarely on the economy and jobs.

The contortions by the Republican candidates illustrate the straddle they’re attempting on a complex issue. In order to win the Republican nomination, they must court a GOP electorate that is largely against anything that could be called “amnesty” for illegal immigrants. But they can’t come off as anti-immigrant, a stance that could alienate the independents and moderates — not to mention Hispanics — they’d need to attract in a general election should they win the party’s nod to challenge President Barack Obama.

Enjoying a rise in national and state polls, Newt Gingrich called in a debate last week for an approach that would grant legal status to illegal immigrants with longstanding family and community ties. Since then, he has been defending that approach from attacks by opponents who say it would amount to amnesty for millions.

“What is it that you’re going to do? Are you really going to go in and advocate ripping people out of their families?” he said.

In New Hampshire, Perry looked to regain his footing on the issue that his dogged his campaign from the outset.

With Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio at his side, the Texas governor, who opposes a border fence with Mexico, defended anew his signing of legislation to allow in-state tuition for children of illegal immigrants.

“They are working toward getting citizenship, and they pay full in-state tuition,” Perry said. “As the sheriff knows, I’ve been fighting this illegal immigration issue for a decade. But the people of Texas made that decision.”

And yet, all that shifting by all those candidates may not matter to the bulk of conservative Republican voters in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina, when the three states kick off the state-by-state march to the GOP nomination.

In interviews, several Republicans said that while the GOP nominee must be tough on sealing the border, they’ll choose the Republican who can best fix the economy, create jobs and beat Obama.

Printed on Wednesday, November 30, 2011 as: GOP candidates try tough immigration policy to court voters

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie ducked questions Thursday about whether he’s considering a GOP presidential bid, while helping Louisiana’s Republican Party fund raise for the state’s fall election cycle.

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

MANCHESTER, N.H. — New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s entry into the 2012 presidential race could dramatically reshape what has become a two-man race between Mitt Romney and Rick Perry. But Christie, who’s under pressure from party elders to run, hasn’t faced national scrutiny — and he could join other early favorites who burned out fast.

The budget-cutting Christie is the latest heartthrob of Republicans who have been looking for a more exciting candidate than Romney.

Perry jumped in to much fanfare only to sweat under the scrutiny his first national campaign brought. Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann rallied restive conservatives long enough to win a key test vote in Iowa but just as quickly receded to the background.

Christie said in January he wasn’t “arrogant enough” to run for president. Now he is reconsidering in light of encouragement from GOP luminaries like Henry Kissinger, Nancy Reagan and Barbara Bush.

If he runs, Christie probably would be able to raise millions for a campaign, though his rivals are ahead. As a Republican governor of a Democratic mid-Atlantic state, he could appeal to those who like Romney’s business background but want more charisma.

If he does run, Christie would push a long list of second-tier candidates even further to the back of the pack. He would also face a national spotlight that’s much harsher than those on the state or local stage.

“The swimming pool looks a lot better until you jump right in. The water may not be quite as warm as you think,” Sen. John McCain, the Republican nominee in 2008, warned Sunday on CBS’ “Face the Nation.”

“The best thing to be is a potential candidate,” said Rich Galen, a Republican strategist. “I don’t think anybody can stand up to that scrutiny without laying the groundwork for a long time before.”

Just ask Perry. Two months ago, Republicans were pushing him to run. He shot to the top of national polls after his announcement in mid-August. A few shaky debate performances and many attacks from Romney later, Perry has already begun to fade due in part to a bill he signed that allows illegal immigrants to receive in-state tuition at Texas universities.

Perry aides point to the fact that he has been running for about six weeks, while Romney has been preparing his second presidential bid since the first one ended. But they acknowledge that starting later has made Perry’s path more difficult and say Christie could face similar problems.

“The scrutiny that will come on his ideological and fiscal policies and social policies will be magnified greatly because of the short time period,” said David Carney, Perry’s top strategist.

Christie favors some restrictions on gun rights, civil unions for gay couples and opposes abortion but described himself as “pro-choice” at the beginning of his political career.

That will provide plenty of fodder for Romney, whose campaign has moved steadily through repeated rounds of other candidates.

“The Romney campaign has been built to withstand all elements and endure every candidate scenario,” said Kevin Madden, a senior Romney aide in 2008 who now serves as an informal adviser. And a Christie entry could end up actually helping Romney.

“Everyone will aim at the perceived frontrunner,” said Galen. “It helps Romney because it will keep the pressure off of him for the next three to four weeks, and depending what happens with the calendar, Romney just has to gather himself and sprint to the finish.”

But top operatives there say they haven’t yet heard from Christie’s team, and the story is much the same in New Hampshire.

“Gov. Christie would make a compelling candidate for president, but there is no evidence whatsoever that he has reached out to top Republican officials and opinion leaders,” said Mike Dennehy, a top New Hampshire Republican strategist.

HAMPTON, N.H. — Texas Gov. Rick Perry, facing stepped up criticism about his immigration record, has begun trying to counter a perceived weakness by portraying himself as the presidential candidate with the most credibility on the issue.

Perry’s Republican rivals for the 2012 nomination have made inroads by highlighting his steadfast support for a policy that gives illegal immigrants in-state tuition at Texas colleges.

The aggressive turn to offense on immigration, both by the candidate and campaign surrogates, stresses Perry’s decade of experience as a border-state governor to bolster his credentials on immigration and border security.

No one in the GOP field, Perry said at a town hall meeting Saturday in New Hampshire, “has been any stronger on securing our border.”

The criticism has resonated with many Republican voters such as Dave Connors, a 67-year-old small-business owner who told Perry that the tuition policy didn’t “make any sense.”

Perry said it was a state’s rights issue that the overwhelming majority of Texas officials thought would benefit the local economy.

The question, he said, was whether illegal immigrants would be on the “government dole” using state social welfare programs or a subsidized education program that would allow them to become productive members of society.

“In Texas, we made the decision that it was in our best interests as a state, economically and otherwise, to have those young people in our institutions of higher learning and becoming educated as part of our skilled workforce,” Perry said. “If you don’t want to do that in your state, I absolutely respect that right.”

The answer helped ease some of Connors’ concerns.

“I’m not anti-Perry, as I was when I came in,” said Connors, who had a Perry sticker on his shirt.

The push-back on immigration was evident also at a town hall meeting Friday night in Derry, where former GOP gubernatorial nominee John Stephen said that none of Perry’s rivals “has through action, not just words, but action, delivered more and stopped the influx of illegal immigration” than Perry. “We’re going to keep talking about that.”

In Hampton, Perry went over an immigration record that extends far beyond the tuition issue.

He said he vetoed a Texas bill that would have given illegal immigrants driver’s licenses, helped pass a bill requiring voter identification at the polls, spent $400 million on security measures to help secure the state’s border with Mexico, and strongly opposed granting amnesty to people who illegally entered the United States.

He also said he may favor sending U.S. troops into Mexico to combat the drug trade.

“It may require our military in Mexico working in concert with them to kill these drug cartels and keep them off of our borders,” he said.

Perry likened the situation to Colombia, where the government accepted American military support in battling drug trafficking. Mexico’s government, however, has been opposed to foreign forces in its territory.

“I’m a governor. I don’t have the pleasure of standing on the stage and criticizing,” Perry said. “I have to deal with these issues.”

The criticism isn’t likely to subside as his opponents try to knock him from his front-runner perch.

A day earlier, Perry’s chief rival, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, kept jabbing Perry on an issue that’s among the most discussed among conservative voters.

“Governor Perry is desperate to shift attention away from his liberal policies that encourage illegal immigration,” Romney spokesman Ryan Williams said.

The host of the Hampton town hall, conservative activist Jennifer Horn, said afterward that Perry’s revamped immigration message was much stronger and comprehensive.

“It is extremely important for him to convince Republican primary voters that he’s not, so-called ‘soft,’ on illegal immigration,” she said.

When asked if he successfully convinced her of that, Horn didn’t answer directly.

“I want to hear more. I want to hear him be consistent in that message,” she said.

Printed on Monday, October 3, 2011 as: Perry counters criticism of immigration policy by highlighting image of credibility, experience 

DURHAM, N.H. — The president of the University of New Hampshire is now outright reversing, rather than just delaying, a decision to ban the sale of energy drinks on campus.

While others had raised concerns about students mixing the drinks with alcohol, Huddleston says students aren’t buying multiple servings that might imply binge drinking. He also says there is no clear evidence that students are abusing the drinks and that the brands on sale at UNH generally have caffeine levels similar to coffee.

Printed on September 30, 2011 as: University of New Hampshire decides not to ban energy drinks

WASHINGTON — A Washington gathering of religious conservatives did something this weekend a South Carolina Republican debate and a well-publicized forum in New Hampshire couldn’t do a few weeks ago.

It drew nearly all the GOP presidential hopefuls to one stage. The Faith and Freedom Coalition’s two-day conference proved that the religious right still plays a major role in the party’s nominating process, even if it’s somewhat less organized than it was in the Christian Coalition’s heyday, and even if economic issues are dominating the run-up to the 2012 elections.

Most of the candidates spent more time on fiscal issues than on spiritual matters on the opening day of the conference Friday. But they generally portrayed the federal debt and health care policies as moral concerns.

And in subtle and unsubtle ways, they paid tribute to religious conservatives who often place abortion, gay marriage and other social issues ahead of questions such as taxes and spending.

— Compiled by Asscociated Press reports

New Hampshire Republicans are pushing legislation that could make it more difficult for the state’s college students to vote. Other proposed laws might prevent students from voting by tightening the definition of residency, according to the New Hampshire Legislature website. Texas is not considering any similar laws. One of the bills would end the Election Day registration, keeping citizens from signing up last minute and casting their votes. Most states, including Texas, do not allow Election Day registration. Another bill would require parents of college students to establish residency in the state before a student can register to vote, according to the bill. College kids are “foolish” and tend to vote liberal, said New Hampshire’s House speaker and Republican William O’Brien during a speech to a Tea Party group. In an interview with Fox News earlier this week, O’Brien said the goal of the residency law was to keep students from voting both in their hometowns and again in the New Hampshire districts where they attend school. “This coupled with a lax definition of residency creates an environment in which people could potentially claim residency in multiple locations,” O’Brien said in a press release. Emily Einsohn, program coordinator of the Annette Strauss Institute for Civic Participation at UT, said Texas does not have any similar legislation that requires parents to establish residency in Texas before college students can register to vote. “It is essential for young people to have their voices heard through the voting process as well as through other avenues of civic engagement in order to break the cycle of neglect that so often occurs when young people don’t participate as an engaged electorate,” Einsohn said. Texas students can choose to register in their hometowns or the places where they attend college, said Texas secretary of state spokesman Randall Dillard. “As long as you’re registered to vote in Texas, you have the right to go to cast your vote,” Dillard said. Public Affairs professor Edwin Dorn said lawmakers often try to prevent their constituents from having a say if their policies conflict with public opinion. “If you know your policies are not going to appeal to college students, then you will do what you can to keep them from participating in politics [through] voting,” Dorn said. Student Government Executive Director Jimmy Talarico said it is the responsibility of students in New Hampshire to speak out against such bills. “Students are already disenfranchised by laws that require you to change your voter registration with the change of your address,” government senior Talarico said about voting laws in Texas. He said many of the issues that are discussed by lawmakers directly affect the future of students. It is vital that students make their voices heard by casting a vote, Talarico said. He was part of an SG initiative called Hook the Vote in 2008 and 2010 that helped UT students register to vote.