New Hampshire Constitution: On Marriage, Morality and Liberty

February 2, 2012

Picture of The Constitution of New Hampshire

Same-Sex Marriage and Usurpation by Redefinition

By Rep. Paul Ingbretson (Grafton 5)

Should any changes to our Constitution be more worrisome to the people than those imposed by simple redefinition or reinterpretation of terms?

Having received several emails this past couple of weeks on both sides of House Bill 437 “relative to the definition of marriage”, clarification of our position regarding a bill that would repeal the recently enacted “same-sex marriage” statute in New Hampshire is timely.

We all know that the New Hampshire Supreme Court did a great disservice to the people of the state in their Claremont education opinions when they redefined out of thin air the word “cherish” in our Constitution (Part II, Art. 83) to “must fund”. We’ve been paying the price ever since for that unconstitutional redefinition. Part of that price is that it encouraged the Democrat majority’s willy-nilly usurpation-by-redefinition of the Constitution’s word “marriage” in their ‘same-sex marriage’ legislation a couple years ago.

Since 1784 the New Hampshire Constitution has included Marriage in Part II, Art. 76. Because that article includes the word Marriage, it’s required meaning is the 1784 definition. (Some would argue that since the word is capitalized, the actual definition precedes our Constitution.) In any case, the Constitutional definition of Marriage in New Hampshire has been, and still is, the 1784 definition: one man and one woman. In an arrogant “usurpation-by-statute” the Constitutional definition was altered two years ago.

Regardless of the branch of government that usurps the people’s authority and oversteps the Constitutional limits set for each branch, the redefinition of words in our Constitution by fiat or legislation is wrong and dangerous. For any branch of government to change a single word’s meaning is abhorrent to the very nature of a Constitutional Republic. HB 437 would restore in statute the original Constitutional definition of Marriage and we are bound by oath to support that restoration.

If supporters of same-sex marriage want to include same-sex marriage in New Hampshire law, they are bound to first change the Constitution by the amendment process. Until then the Constitutional definition of Marriage remains one man and one woman. Claiming new meanings for the words in our Constitution without going through the amendment process is a form of theft and is anathema to the people’s rights. When any branch of government does so it must be opposed and, in this case, HB 437 is the appropriate remedy.

Thanks to Rep. Michael Balboni (R-Nashua) for his assistance putting this together.

More generally, the New Hampshire Constitution succinctly states the important relationship between morality and liberty. Consider these articles contained in the Bill of Rights:

[Art.] 6. [Morality and Piety.] As morality and piety, rightly grounded on high principles, will give the best and greatest security to government, and will lay, in the hearts of men, the strongest obligations to due subjection; and as the knowledge of these is most likely to be propagated through a society, therefore, the several parishes, bodies, corporate, or religious societies shall at all times have the right of electing their own teachers, and of contracting with them for their support or maintenance, or both. But no person shall ever be compelled to pay towards the support of the schools of any sect or denomination. And every person, denomination or sect shall be equally under the protection of the law; and no subordination of any one sect, denomination or persuasion to another shall ever be established. [emphasis added]

[Art.] 38. [Social Virtues Inculcated.] A frequent recurrence to the fundamental principles of the constitution, and a constant adherence to justice, moderation, temperance, industry, frugality, and all the social virtues, are indispensably necessary to preserve the blessings of liberty and good government; the people ought, therefore, to have a particular regard to all those principles in the choice of their officers and representatives, and they have a right to require of their lawgivers and magistrates, an exact and constant observance of them, in the formation and execution of the laws necessary for the good administration of government. [emphasis added]