by Seth Cohn

So despite some efforts, my amendment ‘ban 2 lefthanders from getting married’ was not debated on the floor of the NH House.  (A vote to allow debate failed 286 to 52)

While I did later give the last few paragraphs of the speech, to respond to the claim that this was frivolous, I did not get the opportunity to give my speech, and so, thank to social media, I’d like to at least get this out there.  Please feel free to share and repost.

Speech not given on the New Hampshire House floor on March 21 2012 by Rep Seth Cohn in support of his amendment banning lefthanded marriage.

Thank you Mr. Speaker…

All this week, I’ve had people telling me that there was no need to actually introduce this amendment. I’d made my point already, the House was no place for humor, this was a serious issue… I should not introduce it, and just move on.  But I need to bring this forward –  this is a serious matter, and my amendment has points that I think some have failed to see…

The proponents of this bill have defended it on many grounds. Some bring up Religious arguments, Some bring up Cultural Tradition, Some discuss the Family and Children. Some talk about definitions in the NH Constitution…  And I was taught that until you walk a mile in someone’s shoes, you can’t understand them.  So I attempted to put myself into their shoes, and see what happens…

Many have compared lefthandedness to homosexuality.  It has been claimed by some experts that there is a great similarity between the traits of sexual orientation as compared to the traits of handedness, and that perhaps may both be the result of genetics.  Perhaps not… Is it a choice?  Is it hormonal influence in the womb?  Is it environmental?  The questions remain unanswered in both cases. Evidence is uncertain in both cases, for ANY of these causes.  And so for me, this was a perfect place to start…

Because, Mr. Speaker, I am here to today, not just as a Representative, but as a lefthanded individual…  So this is something I know about, something I have understanding of, something I can relate my own experiences to, and something which I’ve experienced the world at large.

So I looked at Lefthandedness from the different defenses used on this bill…. And I found it wanting…

Religiously… The Bible is crystal clear on this, at least to me. With about 100 verses praising right hands, and 25 verses condemning left hands… I’m left to wonder:  Does God hate lefthanded people?  If the Bible is the word of God, and it discusses left hands far more than it discusses homosexuality. Maybe there is a message here?  I could make Biblical quotes, and argue this… but the Floor of the House, in my view, is not the place to do this. And I promised the gentle lady from Salem that I wouldn’t be offensive to those of faith.  But if the sheep are gathered on the right, and are entering into Heaven, and the Goats are put on the left and are going to Hell… It’s really hard to ignore.  Left is the path to hell? Is this the Biblical message?

Certainly the Catholic Church, for many years, discriminated against lefties… We’ve all heard of nuns tying left hands behind backs in order to force kids to learn to be right handed. In fact, It’s hard to find people over a certain age who is comfortably left handed, because they were taught that right handedness was the way to be, usually by punishment…

Which brings me to the second defense of this bill, tradition and culture:

I’ve heard repeatedly “3000 years of tradition”  Well, let’s look at language around the world for how we discuss left handedness: In Anglo Saxon, left means ‘weak’, in Latin, we find sinister, in French ‘gauche’ or maladroit.  Spanish, Italian, Portuguese and German all have similar negative meanings… Irish, Welsh, Swedish, Hungarian,  Polish,  Chinese, Korean,   Most of the world talks about lefthandness using words that are negative… In some places the left hand is known as the “unclean” hand.   In Ghana, pointing and gesturing with the left hand is considered taboo. In some Asian countries, holding eating utensils in the left hand is considered impolite.

So our entire world tradition are clear: Lefthandedness is wrong… it’s bad, it’s awkward… it’s just not right.

What about Children and the Family?

Is being lefthanded a handicap?  As a lefthanded person, yes, it is… this is a righthanded world… and the many assumptions we make for the righthanded majority make being left handed difficult at time….

Is being a lefthanded child harder?  Yes, it is…  Our handwriting suffers, we need to learn ways to cope with being left in a right leaning world, sometimes we need special versions of items… canopeners, scissors, musical instruments, power tools… or we just learn to make due… and accept that we are a minority, and the world is a righthanded world.

Does one’s parents affect being lefthanded?  It does… we still don’t know exactly why people choose being lefthanded, and if it’s a choice… the science is still out.  but it seems like having lefthanded parents is certainly an influence according to the statistics…   So lefthanded parents love their kids less?  No, of course not.  No more than gay parents love their children any less.

And finally the NH Constitution: Does it protect lefthandedness?  No, Article 2 lists the prohibitions for discrimination. and handedness is not listed… Race, Creed, Sex, all protected, but it’s perfectly legal to discriminate against the left handed…

And after all, the constitution talks about “rights”, it doesn’t talk about ‘lefts’, so even this document has our inherent cultural biases….

So Mr. Speaker…  It’s clear for all of the stated reasons that being lefthanded is certainly about being part of an oppressed minority… and so why bring forward an amendment that seeks to oppress them more??? Why on Earth would a lefthanded person like me introduce an amendment like this?

Because it’s important to stand up in solidarity for other minorities, because I know what it is like to walk in their shoes. The number of similarities between homosexuals and lefthanded people are close enough, and there is even some evidence that they are related.  So if I find this underlying bill offensive, if I find it oppressive, if I find it distasteful, I could merely vote against it, I could merely rise and speak against it… but I choose, consciously and with intent, to stand alongside those being legislated against, to say “If you can do it to them, then you can do it to me… and before you do it to them, do it to me as well…”

Mr Speaker, this amendment is not about making a joke… it’s about seeing a group of individuals being legislated against, and pointing out that there but for the Grace of God go I, and making it clear to all where I and others land on this issue… It’s about their rights… and if I want to protect their rights, I’m willing to match that with the lefts.

I hope this House will join with me in supporting this amendment… to send this message loud and clear…

Mr Speaker, if you know as I know that this amendment sends the message that oppression of one minority is the same as oppression of others, and if you know as I know that anyone will still be able to marry the righthander of their choice, then will you join with me, put your left hand behind your back, and with your right hand, press the green button?