Legislators on Thursday rejected a holiday honoring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., leaving New Hampshire as the only state without one.
The House defeated the bill by a vote of 199 to 163.
Gov. Steve Merrill, who took office in January, said he would sign executive orders each year adding King’s name to the state’s Civil Rights Day. He supported making the change permanent.
Some opponents said they felt that King was unpatriotic during the Vietnam War and was a womanizer. Others refused to go back on a compromise struck in 1991 that created Civil Rights Day on the third Monday in January.
Still others said that naming the holiday for King would diminish the accomplishments of other civil rights leaders.
“I don’t want a black holiday, I don’t want a Polish holiday, I don’t even want a women’s holiday, I want a holiday we can all share,” Rep. Vivian Clark said.
The bill’s backers said New Hampshire should be ashamed and embarrassed.
“I think that when we sit here in America and say this is a black holiday, we are sick,” Rep. Juanita Bell said.