New Hampshire Legalizes Gay Marriage, 6th State
New Hampshire has become the 6th state where gays can marry and the 2nd to make this change through the legislative process.
Traditionally conservative New Hampshire today became the sixth state in the nation — and the fifth state in New England — where same-sex couples will be allowed to marry.
“Today we’re standing up for the liberties of same-sex couples by making clear they will receive the same rights, responsibilities, and respect under New Hampshire law,” Governor John Lynch said before signing the legislation in a State House ceremony at about 5:20 p.m. Lynch said it was a New Hampshire tradition “to come down on the side of individual liberties and protections, and that tradition continues today.” The room, filled by scores of the bill’s supporters, resounded with applause as he signed.
Gay marriage is now legal in Vermont, Maine, New Hampshire, Connecticut, and Massachusetts — all of the new England states, except for Rhode Island. Gay marriage is also legal in Iowa.
Technically, the bill doesn’t take effect until January 1st. As Tom Fahey reports for the Union Leader, the process was a bit more complicated than Lynch’s signing statement would indicate.
HB 73, compromise legislation demanded by the governor, was passed by a vote of 14-10 in the Senate and 198-176 in the House today. HB 73 (text), was an add-on to the gay marriage bill itself, HB 436 (text), and to HB 310 (text), which made technical changes to the main bill. HB 73 clarifies the rights of religious organizations and their employees to refuse to participate in same-sex marriage ceremonies or celebrations. It states that religious groups have exclusive control over doctrine, teaching and beliefs on who can marry within their faiths.
The House refused to go along with the Lynch language protecting religion two weeks ago, failing to pass the measure by a single vote. Some who voted against it at the time said the House was being asked to agree to changes without being given enough time to examine them.
House opponents aired the same complaints today, but the tide had shifted. “The House has always taken the time to consider the unintended consequences of any bill,” said Rep. Betsey Patten, R-Moultonborough.
Supporters of the bill said the new language protects religious beliefs and individual rights. “Let’s vote this one last time. Church and state should be separate,” said Rep. Anthony DiFruscia, R-Windham, who helped craft the final compromise language. In the Senate, Judiciary Committee chair Sen. Deborah Reynolds, D-Plymouth, said the language in the amendment strikes a balance that provides “equal rights for all and the right to religious freedom.”
AP’s Norma Love gives more information on the compromise:
Lynch, a Democrat, had promised a veto if the law didn’t clearly spell out that churches and religious groups would not be forced to officiate at gay marriages or provide other services. Legislators made the changes.
The revised bill added a sentence specifying that all religious organizations, associations or societies have exclusive control over their religious doctrines, policies, teachings and beliefs on marriage. It also clarified that church-related organizations that serve charitable or educational purposes are exempt from having to provide insurance and other benefits to same-sex spouses of employees.
Messier and likely more complicated than a dictate handed down from a court. But much more likely to be accepted as legitimate because it was made by the people’s representatives. This is interesting, too:
The law will establish civil and religious marriage licenses and allow each party to the marriage to be identified as bride, groom or spouse. Same-sex couples already in civil unions will automatically be assumed to have a “civil marriage.”
Regardless, the tide is clearly turning on this subject. The New England states are more liberal than most, of course, but they’re modeling the change. As it becomes clear that marriage isn’t collapsing as an institution among heterosexuals and society isn’t collapsing — not a single reported case of anyone being turned into a pillar of salt, for example — this will be normalized. It may take twenty years for gays to be able to marry in Mississippi and Alabama but it’ll happen in due time.
Photo: Jim Cole/AP