Friday, May 22, 2009

New Hampshire Gay Marriage Stumble & Regroup

The Boston Globe reports today that the New Hampshire House rejected the bill Wednesday that would have legalized same-sex marriage, and met the condition set by Governor Lynch, that religious groups may opt out of performing services if they object. Both supporters and critics of gay marriage were stunned by the outcome. Supporters are regrouping and feel confident that they can bring a new bill quickly that will successfully pass. The article, by Brian MacQuarrie, contains speculation by Granite State lawmakers that they were missing some key votes in the chamber when the bill came to the vote.

Yesterday, Norma Love, from the Associated Press, had this article in the Globe.

Mo Baxley, executive director of the New Hampshire Freedom to Marry Coalition, said gay marriage advocates are confident they have the votes to ultimately pass a bill that satisfies Gov. John Lynch's demand for expanded religious protections.

The House rejected language Lynch demanded by two votes Wednesday, but defeated efforts to kill it in hopes Lynch would then veto gay marriage. Instead, the House asked the Senate to negotiate a compromise.

Democratic legislative leaders hope to bring a compromise to a vote as early as June 3. If it passes, the bill and two already passed bills needed to implement gay marriage would be sent to Lynch for signature.

Rep. Jim Splaine, prime sponsor of the main gay marriage bill, said Thursday that advocates will use the next two weeks to educate lawmakers about the religious protections Lynch wants.

"The governor's made it clear he wants to stick to the core principles he's offered," said Splaine, D-Portsmouth. "We can do this."

Opponents pointed to the House's failure to adopt his language as reason for Lynch to veto gay marriage now. (snip)

Lynch said after Wednesday's vote he would continue discussing gay marriage with lawmakers, but the principles he outlined must be part of the final legislation to get his signature.

"He's given the Legislature language that articulates clear and strong principles," Manning reiterated Thursday

Key Republicans who switched sides indicated Thursday they're open to supporting a compromise.

"I think the votes are there to pass it and put it on Governor Lynch's desk," said Rep. Anthony DiFruscia, a Windham Republican who lead the fight for negotiations.

Amherst Republican Cynthia Dokmo, who also voted against passage, said she would like to see the bill tweaked.

"I would like to see this bill pass," she said. "It just seems to me it really doesn't hurt anyone and it helps some people. It's not going to affect my marriage."

Rep. Steve Vaillancourt, a Manchester Republican who also switched, argued Lynch's proposed language provides churches broader ability to discriminate than do laws in Connecticut and Vermont.

"I need something that does not send a signal to the rest of the country that New Hampshire has gone farther than any other state," said Vaillancourt.

The language the House defeated is almost identical to language in the gay marriage law approved by Connecticut on April 23 and similar to Vermont's law. Lynch proposes expanding protections for religious institutions in both laws to include their employees. He also would include an exemption for religious counseling, programs, courses, retreats and housing for married individuals.

"I think what our language does is just spell out in greater detail and clarity the religious protections," said Baxley.

Meanwhile in Maine, gay marriage supporters gathered in a park across the street from the Capitol to thank lawmakers and Gov. John Baldacci for passing a gay marriage law earlier this month.

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