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Same sex marriage (SSM) and civil unions


Civil unions and same-sex
marriage (SSM) in New Hampshire

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Timeline leading to the approval of same-sex marriages (SSMs) in New Hampshire:

  • 2008-JAN: Civil Unions: Governor John Lynch (D) signed a civil union bill on 2007-MAY-31. It went into effect on 2008-JAN-01. Loving, committed same-sex couples can now enter into civil unions and receive all of the hundreds of state benefits that only opposite-sex married couples had previously enjoyed.

  • 2009-APR: Public opinion poll: The University of New Hampshire Survey Center released a statewide poll that found that:
    • 55% of adult residents support SSM
    • 39% oppose SSM
    • 6% don't know or refused to answer.

  • 2009-MAY: SSM bill passed: A bill to legalize same-sex marriage (SSM) in New Hampshire was passed by the state Senate and House.

  • 2009-MAY-14, Governor Lynch refused to sign bill: He said that he would sign a bill into law that authorized SSM if the Legislature modified it to give greater protections to churches and church employees who wanted to continue to discriminate against same-sex couples.

  • 2009-MAY/JUN: Legislative activity: The House narrowly defeated an amended bill. The House and Senate then formed a joint committee to find a wording for the bill that will pass both bodies. The House and Senate were able to reach a compromise and passed the amended bill.

  • 2009-JUN-03: Bill becomes law: Governor Lynch signed the amended bill into law. New Hampshire thus became the sixth U.S. state to legalize SSM.

    That leaves Rhode Island as the only holdout against SSM among the New England states. Because of the influence of the Roman Catholic Church in that state, SSM may be difficult to achieve there.

  • 2010-JAN: SSM comes to NH: Loving, committed same-sex couples became able to marry in 2010-JAN. However, same-sex couples are still be denied over 1,100 federal benefits that are routinely given to opposite-sex married couples because of the Defense of Marriage Act. That act is clearly unconstitutional and has been declared so by multiple federal courts.

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Subsequent activity during 2010, 2011 & 2012:

During the 2010-NOV elections, Republicans gained control of both the state House and Senate. Governor John Lynch (D) was re-elected. Republicans launched an effort during 2011-OCT to repeal the SSM law. It would eliminate future SSMs in the state, and perhaps even forcibly divorce existing same-sex married couples. This would leave same-sex couples and their children without the hundreds of state protections and benefits of marriage. Republicans now have sufficient seats in both houses to overturn a veto by the Governor if the votes in the legislature went strictly according to party lines.

By mid 2011, support for SSM nationally surged ahead and opposition dropped significantly. National support was approximately the same as the support of New Hampshire voters two years earlier. By 2011-FEB, support for SSM in New Hampshire reached 62% and opposition shrank to 29%. Almost 44% of those polled said they would consider voting against any legislator who supported a proposed bill to cancel SSMs. We expect that support by the end of 2011 might reach 65% in the state. By that time, same-sex marriages would have been legal for two full years, and the heterosexual voters in the state would have realized that allowing same-sex couples to marry had affected neither themselves or their own marriages at all. Past experiences in places that have legalized same-sex marriages -- like Massachusetts, and Canada have shown that same-sex marriage becomes largely a non-issue after it is legalized.

In late October, Texas Governor Rick Perry came to New Hampshire to promote his candidacy for President in 2012. He advocated that the state's SSM bill be repealed. In mid-2011-NOV, the Republican-controlled House Judiciary Committee recommended the repeal bill for a vote in the full House early in 2012. It remained to be seen whether the Republican legislators are willing to face the wrath of the voters by passing such an unpopular bill. Governor John Lynch (D) promised to veto the repeal bill if it arrives on his desk. Commentators were debating whether both the House and Senate would have sufficient anti-SSM votes to override the veto. A two thirds majority in both would be required.

A vote on the bill, which would replace SSMs with civil unions in early 2013, was held on 2012-MAR-21. A totally unexpected event happened. The Republican-controlled House voted overwhelmingly (211 to 116) to kill the bill! This was an unprecedented event in the history of the U.S.

Topics covered in this section:


Civil unions:

bullet Introduction, public opinion, committee hearings.
bullet House approval. Senate committee approval. Public opinion poll
bullet Senate passes bill. Governor signs it into law.

Same-sex marriage (SSM):

bullet SSM bill passed by House; Senate committee hearings
bullet SSM bill passed by Legislature
bullet Governor Lynch approves the bill in principle, but asks for changes
bullet SSM comes to New Hampshire
bullet What do the polls say?
bullet 2011-SEP/OCT: House subcommittee reviews SSM law. Poll shows high public support for SSM.

bullet 2011-OCT: House subcommittee passes SSM repeal bill. Pro-SSM group organized

bullet 2012-JAN: SSM repeal bills inactive. Bill introduced to give immunity from human rights legislation

bullet 2012-JAN-MAR: Bill to legalize discrimination (Cont'd). Public opinion poll. Proposed amendment to SSM repeal bill

bullet 2012-MAR: Bill to legalize all types of discrimination in marriage rejected. Comments

bullet 2012-MAR: Unexpected action: Bill to repeal SSMs also rejected by House. Reactions

bullet 2012-MAR: More reactions to the defeat of the bill to repeal SSM. Influence on 2012 elections?

Copyright 2007 to 2012 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2007-APR-19
Latest update: 2012-APR-20
Author: B.A. Robinson

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