David Bates, the Republican state representative behind a bill that would repeal New Hampshire's 2-year-old gay marriage law, says passage would be historic.

“This vote has national ramifications. If we're able to restore traditional marriage here, it will be the only time anywhere ever that a legislature has reversed its position,” Bates told the Nashua Telegraph.

While Maine's gay marriage law was repealed with a “people's veto” and Proposition 8 uprooted a California Supreme Court ruling legalizing gay marriage, New Hampshire would be the first state to legislatively overturn a gay marriage law.

Lawmakers have said they expect to debate the issue sometime after the January 10 presidential primary.

Bates' bill would replace the law with civil unions for any unmarried adults, including relatives, and would allow anyone to refuse to recognize such unions.

“The rest of the country is watching,” said Ray Buckley, chairman of the state Democratic Primary. “What I feel sorry for is the nearly 2,000 couples that have married here. … These are families sitting on the edge of their chairs wondering, 'Are we going to be a family next year?'”

Noting that gay couples who have married under the law would be grandfathered in under the new bill and remain married, Bates insisted no rights were being taken away.

“This isn't taking rights away from anybody,” he said. “It's trying to draw a bright line and make a distinction between [marriage and civil unions].”