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New Hampshire House Approves Civil Rights Holiday, Leaves Off King’s Name

May 10, 1991

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) _ The state House voted to create a paid holiday in honor of civil rights on the same day as the federal Martin Luther King Day, but left King’s name off the measure.

Lawmakers voted 243-105 on Thursday to establish the holiday on the third Monday in January, the same day the federal government and 48 states honor King’s Jan. 15 birthday.

The Senate could vote to send the bill to Gov. Judd Gregg as early as next week. Gregg has said he will sign it.

Gregg argued against having both a civil rights holiday and a Fast Day because it would mean two paid holidays that taxpayers would have to pay for. He suggested a Sunday holiday, but the House rejected it.

Arizona and New Hampshire are the only states without a paid holiday for state workers that honors King. King supporters have tried unsuccessfully for 12 years to name a holiday for the civil rights leader killed in Memphis, Tenn., in April 1968. The Senate passed legislation this year naming the holiday after him, but lacked support for it in the House.

Some representatives said it was important not to single out any one person who fought for civil rights. And some opponents of including King’s name alluded to his stand against the Vietnam War and allegations of marital infidelity and plagiarism.

″We saw no way to get it passed with his name,″ said Rep. Lionel Johnson, past state president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

Rep. Jacquelyn Domaingue, who offered Civil Rights Day as a compromise, said after the vote that it’s time for New Hampshire to put the issue to rest and ″put into practice what they fought and died for, and that’s social justice.″

Some King supporters argued that leaving his name off diluted the meaning of the observance.

″The question was and still is whether New Hampshire will join the federal government and 48 other states in celebrating the vision, the value and the leadership of a great American who inspired thousands of ordinary people to do extraordinary things,″ Rep. Deborah Arnesen said.

Other lawmakers opposed replacing Fast Day because it is the state’s only unique holiday.

″It reminds us of our roots as an English colony,″ Rep. Shawn Jasper said.

Fast Day started in 1681 when the colonial government commanded citizens to pray and fast for the recovery of the New Hampshire’s colony’s ailing first governor, John Cutts. Cutts died, but the fast day lived on.

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