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Same sex marriage (SSM) and
civil unions in New Hampshire

Intro. Public opinion polls.
House committee hearings
on civil union bill.

Sponsored link.

2006-NOV: The New Hampshire legislature & executive:

The Democratic Party won control of both the House of Representatives and the Senate at the mid-term elections for the first time in 130 years.

Governor John Lynch (D) has expressed firm opposition to same-sex marriage (SSM) in the state. His views on same-sex civil unions were unclear.

Previous legislation in New Hampshire bans same-sex marriage.

Republicans initiated a bill to begin the process of amending the state constitution to ban SSM and place it beyond the power of the courts to authorize. It was defeated in the legislature.

As of 2009-MAR, same-sex couples can be "civil unionized" in  New Jersey and Vermont. California has a domestic partnership law, and briefly allowed same-sex marriage during 2009 before Proposition 8 outlawed it. Massachusetts and Connecticut, are the only states that allow same-sex couples. However, same-sex couples cannot receive the over 1,050 federal benefits given to opposite-sex married couples. Canadian couples in all ten provinces and three territories can marry as well.

There seems to be momentum building in favor of same-sex marriage throughout the New England states.

2006-DEC-26: Most New Hampshire residents favor civil unions:

Research 2000 conducted a telephone poll of 600 voters for the Concord Monitor between 2006-DEC-18 and 20: 44% favored civil unions for same-sex couples; 40% were opposed; 16% were unsure.

On the topic of SSM, 55% were opposed; 35% were in favor; 10% were unsure.

Pollster Del Ali said that the results in New Hampshire were almost identical to those polls conducted in Vermont during the late 1990s before that state legalized civil unions. 1

Because of the small sample size, the results on the civil union question are believed to be not statistically significant.

2007-MAR-05: House committee hearing on SSM & civil unions:

The New Hampshire House Judiciary Committee held a seven hour session to discuss both civil unions and marriage for loving, committed same-sex couples residing in the state. Three proposed bills were discussed that would either:

bulletAllow same-sex couples to marry, as in Massachusetts. This bill was proposed by Rep. Maureen Baxley (D), the executive director of New Hampshire Freedom to Marry.
 
bulletAllow them to enter into civil unions, as in Vermont. This bill was proposed by Rep. Jim Splaine (D). He believed that the legislature would be unwilling to approve SSM at this time. He said: "I believe the process of lawmaking needs compromise. If you do not believe that we can do marriage in 2007, then I urge you to do the next best thing."
 
bulletHave the state recognize legal SSM and civil unions that are entered into in other states, as Rhode Island has done. A bill to implement this was proposed by Rep. Marlene DeChane (D). It would repeal a 2004 law that prevents New Hampshire from recognizing marriages performed elsewhere. Rep. Ed Butler (D) said that the current law "... has been causing divorce at the border. This bill will reverse that inequality."

Some comments at the committee meeting:

bulletSen. Bob Clegg, (R) proposed a form of "contractual cohabitation." This would give any two adults -- same-sex or opposite-sex -- who enter into an agreement before a justice of the peace all of the benefits of marriage.
 
bulletKevin Jordan, a resident of Nottingham, NH, testified:

"To me, marriage in general has always been a religious union. I do not support marriage between a woman and a woman, two women and a man, and a man and a goat."

bulletNancy Mari of Londonderry said that homosexuality is a trap. She prophesized that allowing SSM would contribute to the end of humanity. She said: "If we continue in this way, then God's judgment is coming."
 
bulletSenator Jacalyn Cilley (D) said:

"It is, to my mind, unconscionable that we force gay and lesbian couples to live in non-legal limbo, giving them no legal rights toward each other. Our great state, beyond perhaps any other, is grounded in the notion of individual liberty for each of its citizens. It is time that these same individual liberties are extended to our gay and lesbian citizens."

bulletRep. Mo Baxley (D) said: "Doesn't that word [marriage] bring with it dignity?" He suggested that any form of civil union would be a form of discrimination.
 
bulletRaymond Buckley, a former Democratic lawmaker suggested that the state introduce civil unions as a first step. He said: "I don't agree with those who say we should kill the good while waiting for the perfect."
 
bulletPamela Colantuono of Manchester opposes SSM. She said: "It's the watering down of our culture. Massachusetts has run amok. I do not want to see New Hampshire in the same way." Actually, the experience in Massachusetts has indicated that SSM may benefit the institution of marriage. That state was the first one to legalize SSM and has the lowest divorce rate in the nation. More details.
 
bulletRobert Theberge, a co-sponsor of Marlene DeChane's bill said: "A lot of people will be hiding behind their religious beliefs. [But the bill] is the Christian thing to do." 2,3

References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. "Poll: Civil unions OK, gay marriage not," Associated Press, 2006-DEC-26, at: http://www.unionleader.com/
  2. Sarah Liebowitz, "Same-sex unions spur debate. Both sides invoke God in arguments," Concord Monitor Online, 2007-MAR-06, at: http://www.concordmonitor.com
  3. "Marathon Session Hears Gay Marriage Proposals In New Hampshire," 365Gay.com, 2007-MAR-06, at: http://365gay.com/

Copyright © 2007 to 2009 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2007-APR-19
Latest update: 2009-MAR-27
Author: B.A. Robinson

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