New Hampshire politicians have postponed debate on two bills that sought to ban repeal gay marriage in the state until next year.

The House Judiciary Committee voted unanimously to hold the two bills in committee and not consider them again until 2012.

The drive to ban gay marriage is being led by Republican representative David Bates who said that no action on the bills would be taken until next January to give lawmakers time to focus on the economy.

But he said: “I have been assured the effort to restore traditional marriage will have the full support of House leadership when the time comes to take it up next year.”

Mr Bates had hoped that the legislature would vote to repeal the law this year. He has also raised the possibility of pursuing a constitutional amendment restricting marriage to heterosexual couples.

A poll by the University of New Hampshire Survey Center released last week found strong support for the law.

It found that just 29 per cent of respondents in the state support repeal of the gay marriage, 51 per cent strongly oppose repeal, 11 per cent somewhat oppose repeal, and nine per cent say they are neutral or do not know.

Democratic Governor John Lynch has said he would veto any bills to repeal it.