A New Hampshire lawmaker on Tuesday switched his party affiliation from Republican to Democrat due what he says is the Republican House leadership's anti-vaccine stance.
"I cannot stand idly by while extremists reject the reasonable precautions of vaccinations and masks," Rep. Bill Marsh of Brookfield said in a statement. "And so I have reluctantly changed my party affiliation. I urge others to consider what is happening and come to their own conclusions."
In an interview with NBC10 Boston, Marsh said the last straw was a rally held by New Hampshire House Republicans on Tuesday opposing President Joe Biden's proposed COVID-19 vaccine requirement for large companies. "They're calling for a special session to basically do the same thing (Florida Gov. Ron) DeSantis is doing in Florida," he said.
"The faction that's currently dominant in the Republican Party in the House in New Hampshire opposes vaccines and masks and mandates of any kind, and are of the opinion that public health measures are unconstitutional," he added. "I believe Supreme Court case law shows that not to be the case."
He said in the press release announcing his party switch that he has come to realize that a majority of Republicans, both locally and in the New Hampshire House, hold values which no longer reflect what he considers traditional Republican values.
"My intention had been to quietly finish my term and enjoy my retirement in peace. Unfortunately events have forced my hand," he said.
Marsh, a retired physician, said he knows all too well the toll the coronavirus is taking. He said he recently had to bring his daughter home from Connecticut College because they quickly went from a handful of people infected to 6% of the entire campus.
"It's crazy," he said. "We need to use every tool at our disposal so our kids can get the education they need."
Marsh said he has spoken out against the Republican leadership's anti-vaccine stances in the past, which cost him his position as vice chair of the Health and Human Services Committee over the summer. He was transferred to the Election Law Committee, which he said he was removed from on Tuesday within minutes of his announcement that he had switched his party affiliation.
House Democratic leadership issued a statement condemning Tuesday's rally and welcoming Marsh to the Democratic Caucus, "where common sense prevails."
Marsh said he didn't make the move to get attention, but because he felt it was the right thing to do.
"We all hope that other people will follow us, but I'm not so vain to expect that necessarily to happen. It might," he said. "At the end of the day, the only person you have to live with is yourself."