The day things change

General Gayety

by QNotes Staff  Staff Reports  editor@goqnotes.com
Published: January 22, 2010 in General Gayety

If you follow the news, you know that Jan. 1 was a big day in New Hampshire.

That’s the day recreational fishermen needed to be registered to fish for smelt.

Days don’t come any bigger.

If you’re a smelt fisherman. Or a smelt.

Jan. 1 was also the day same-sex marriage became legal in the Granite State. The fight for and against gay marriage was vitally important to many New Hampshirites and the positive outcome a huge, happy deal to the LGBT community across the country.

But from a statutory point of view, when New Year’s Day came around, the monumental change in marriage law didn’t stand alone. No, indeed. Other alterations to state law kicked in that day, each important to, well, at least somebody.

Take that fishy law. Seacoastonline.com reported that now most New Hampshire saltwater recreational anglers and spear fishermen must register to fish for “anadromous” species, like smelt, in tidal waters.

I couldn’t find “anadromous” in the dictionary, my grasp of fish is slippery and my brain preferred to gloss over the dull facts and instead imagine the story of Jonah and the smelt.

But, I did get why this new law is important: A registry will provide accurate data helpful in protecting shared marine resources. Makes sense to me. And, since I doubt smelt marched to Concord to testify before the state legislature, the new law made sense to enough New Hampshire humans.

So did the new rule mandating carbon monoxide detectors in homes built after Jan. 1. That one surprised me, given the state’s libertarian tradition. I would’ve expected the bill to collapse as some flinty legislator intoned, “You’re infringing on personal freedom! If somebody doesn’t want a carbon monoxide detector, it’s his right to die!”

Similar concerns probably arose in the debate over distracted driving. As of New Year’s Day, drivers in New Hampshire may not send text messages while behind the wheel. Ditto for Twittering and typing on laptops. Getting caught will cost $100.

So, anyone who attends a lesbian wedding or fishes for smelt and becomes emotional over either must wait to get home to tweet about it.

Another change to state law must’ve had an emotional component: There’s no more statute of limitations on assisting or concealing a murder. If you hid a murder and texted about it while driving, you’re doubly in trouble.

Licensed physical therapists in New Hampshire saw their world expand as of Jan. 1. They can now get special certification to practice on animals. Whether most animals supported or opposed this measure is hard to say.

The law naming the Chinook as the official state dog went into effect last August, but Seacoastonline.com included the change in its roundup of laws kicking in on New Year’s Day. The folks behind the news site must still be giddy with the dog’s elevation.

A sled and work dog, the Chinook is the only breed to have originated in New Hampshire. It’s joined such luminaries as the ladybug and spotted newt as official state mascots.

Who raised the dog to its present lofty status? A group of seventh-graders. Their lobbying got the job done. If we’d turned over the fight for same-sex marriage to students from the Ross Lurgio Middle School in Bedford we’d have gotten it sooner.

Now other students are advocating for apple cider to be named the official state beverage. Maybe on Jan. 1 of next year that law will go into effect and the gay couples who married this Jan. 1 will drink a tart toast to their first anniversary and their state.

The kids are lobbying for regular cider, not hard cider. We got same-sex marriage, but we can’t have everything. : :

info: LesRobinson@aol.com . generalgayety.com

This article was published in the Jan. 23 — Feb. 5 print edition.