I suppose I should elaborate on this a little more.
Living as a Democrat in New Hampshire means compromising your principles a lot. Yes, we’ve been getting more Democratic for a variety of reasons, but the fact remains that the central issue in New Hampshire politics is education financing, and no one whose views on education financing are not insane can get elected. In the beginning, the state didn’t give local school districts anything, and a poor district sued successfully and the Supreme Court ordered the legislature to contribute something. Local school districts have always used property taxes as their main source of funding, and so the state decided to do the same. However, the state-level tax burden was much higher than the local one, meaning that cumulative property taxes became massive. Which is a problem, because property taxes are incredibly regressive.
Now, some people – what I like to call “the smart people” – think this is stupid, and we should eliminate the statewide property tax and replace it with a small (3.75-4%) flat income tax. It’s not progressive, but it’s not as ridiculously unfair as the current regime. However, thanks to a batshit crazy douchebag named Mel Thomson, New Hampshire has this thing called the “tax pledge”. Basically, to get elected governor of New Hampshire, you need to promise to veto any income or sales tax. It’s arbitrary, it makes no sense, and it’s the way life is. The only person to refuse to make that promise and win was Jeanne Shaheen in 2000 – and she was already governor, having taken the pledge in 1996 and 1998.
And so the only Democrats we get are people like John Lynch and Jeanne Shaheen. And in a lot of ways, these Democrats suck. Shaheen is particularly awful – remember when she was talking up her support for the war and the Bush tax cuts in 2002? Lynch hasn’t been that atrocious, but he still refuses to fix the income tax. So I’m used to being disappointed by Democrats.
But none of that excuses Lynch’s refusal to commit to signing the gay marriage bill. New Hampshire isn’t a conservative state. It’s a libertarian state. It has a visceral aversion to government intervention in everything, from our taxes to our sex lives to our alcohol. We’re the last state to not require adults to wear seatbelts, and I know plenty of people who would review a reversal on that as a crushing blow to freedom. And so it is with marriage. New Hampshire voters support marriage equality by double-digit margins. Not because they sympathize with gay people, but because they sympathize with our desire to be left alone.
If Lynch vetoes this bill, it will be a profound act of Broderesque political cowardice for which I can think of few precedents. Justice would be against him. The people would be against him. And I’d like to think his own conscience would be against him. The only force supporting such a decision would be a fear of out-of-state cash flowing into his opponent. And if the prospect of a decently financed Republican gubernatorial nominee who might break 30% of the vote is terrifying enough to Lynch that he’ll disregard the wishes of the people of New Hampshire and throw its gay and lesbian residents under the bus, then I pity him. I pity him for whatever confluence of circumstances led to his existence as the world’s most cowardly man. And very quickly, that pity would turn to seething anger. Because I know how much it sucks to grow up gay in rural New Hampshire. I know that vetoing this bill, and in doing so eliminating the hopes of kids like me to find love and get married and live life as all our straight friends will, will make it suck just a little bit more. And that is truly contemptible.