Thursday, April 30, 2009

New Hampshire Gay Marriage Update

The Boston Globe offers this update to the story of the bill legalizing gay marriage in New Hampshire.

The New Hampshire Senate voted yesterday to allow same-sex couples to marry, setting the state in motion to become the fifth in the country to legalize same-sex marriage.

New Hampshire's House of Representatives has already approved the bill, but the Senate amended the language slightly before passing it on a 13-to-11 vote, meaning the House must approve the changes, reject them, or confer with the Senate before sending the bill to the governor.

With House approval expected, supporters and opponents are closely watching Governor John Lynch, a Democrat who has opposed same-sex marriage in the past and has not indicated whether he would sign or veto the latest measure.
Author Eric Moskowitz reports that opponents of the bill are lobbying the Republican governor hard to veto the bill. Meanwhile, Governor Lynch has not said what he will do.
After Vermont legalized same-sex civil unions in 2000, Massachusetts followed with a 2003 Supreme Judicial Court decision that paved the way for same-sex marriage.

Similar legal decisions followed in Connecticut and Iowa. This month, Vermont became the first state to guarantee same-sex marriage through a legislative act. Earlier this week, Maine lawmakers recommended that their state do the same. (snip)

New Hampshire's House had approved the same-sex marriage bill last month on a 186-to-179 vote, but the Senate Judiciary Committee recommended killing the measure. Yesterday, a floor amendment designed as a compromise enabled the bill to win majority support, with 13 of 14 Democrats but none of the 10 Republicans.

The amendment distinguished between "civil marriage" and weddings sanctioned by religious groups, spelling out that the state would not force those groups to marry same-sex couples. It also clarified that the bill would not eliminate the option to select "husband" or "wife" when applying for a marriage license, even as it would add the gender-neutral term "spouse."

The Senate version "recognizes the sanctity of religious marriages and the diversity of beliefs in our culture" while also addressing a form of state discrimination, Senate President Sylvia Larsen said in an interview after the vote.

State Representative James Splaine, the bill's primary sponsor in the House, said the amendment improved the bill. Splaine, who is gay, expects the House to endorse the changes.

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