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Economy, Jobs and Marriage Top Issues for Gay N.H. Voters

by Michael K. Lavers
National News Editor
Tuesday Jan 10, 2012

MANCHESTER, N.H.-Peterborough resident Eric Rothhaus was among the roughly two dozen or so people who were at the Breezeway, a gay bar on the corner of Elm and Pearl Streets in downtown Manchester on Monday night. Songs from Shakira, En Vogue and Janet Jackson were among those that played from an iPod in the DJ booth as men and one woman drank beers, talked among themselves or played pool.

Against this backdrop, politics were certainly on many patrons' minds.

"I've tried very much over the past 20 plus years of voting to do not what was going to make somebody win, but [to do] what was right-[support] the person that I thought would govern the best," said Rotthaus, who described himself as a Libertarian. "That's what I'll do tomorrow, but I still don't know who that is."

Roughly 40 percent of New Hampshire's registered voters are independent, but those at the Breezeway were quick to list the issues about which they care the most.

David Hanks of Concord listed the economy and marriage equality as his top concerns.

"I want the federal rights that every other heterosexual American has," he said.

Josh, a Manchester resident who declined to give his last name, said nuptials for same-sex couples is also a top issue for him alongside education and the economy.

"Marriage is important to me because I am a gay male and I believe that marriage should be an open to more than just a male and a female," he said.

Republican presidential candidates faced more questions and criticisms over their opposition to marriage for same-sex couples on the eve of the primary.

A group of Occupy protesters labeled former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum a "bigot" as he and his family left a campaign rally at a downtown Manchester bar on Monday night. A woman asked Santorum at a Salem town hall meeting earlier in the day about whether his anti-gay record makes him an electable candidate. And a group of college students also booed the former U.S. senator at another town hall meeting at New England College in Henniker late last week.

Both former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and Texas Gov. Rick Perry have endorsed a bill that would repeal the Granite State's marriage equality law that took effect in Jan. 2010. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich said at the Republican presidential debate at St. Anselm's College on Saturday that same-sex couples should receive hospital visitation and other limited rights, while former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman again indicated his support for civil unions.

Romney and Santorum once again highlighted their opposition to marriage for same-sex couples at a second debate in Concord the following day.

Do voters think Santorum and other candidates faced unfair questions about their opposition to marriage equality?

Shelly, a Santorum supporter who declined to give her last name, told EDGE outside a polling place on Manchester's east side this morning that she thinks the questions are not unfair.

"I just don't think it's as relevant as to what I want to hear," she said, noting jobs and the economy remain her top issues. "I just don't want to make an issue out of it."

Shelly questioned those who accuse Santorum of homophobia and bigotry.

"I think that he's a good man and I too agree that we don't want to compartmentalize each group-I just don't agree with that," she said. "I think he stands for freedom for everybody."

A poll that WMUR and the University of New Hampshire Survey Center released late on Friday indicated that only eight percent of likely Republican primary voters would support Santorum. A Suffolk University/WHDH survey on Monday found Santorum's support remained unchanged.

A Portsmouth woman who was with Texas Congressman Ron Paul supporters outside Gingrich's downtown Manchester office on Monday night stressed that anti-gay politics do not resonate with the majority of New Hampshire voters. A UNH Survey Center poll published in October found that 62 percent of New Hampshire residents support the marriage equality law.

Rotthaus further questioned why any candidate would endorse the marriage equality repeal bill.

"They're talking too much about something that they really don't have any business talking about," he said, noting he supports civil unions for both same-sex and heterosexual couples. "It should just be done and over with."

Based in Washington, D.C., Michael K. Lavers has appeared in the New York Times, BBC, WNYC, Huffington Post, Village Voice, Advocate and other mainstream and LGBT media outlets. He is an unapologetic political junkie who thoroughly enjoys living inside the Beltway.


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