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Religious Tolerance logo

Same sex marriage (SSM) in New Hampshire

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

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2012-MAR-15: Bill HB 1264 "squashed" by House:

The House voted 246 to 85 to resoundingly defeat what many described as the "freedom to discriminate" bill.

We found the rejection of this bill to be the most encouraging news affecting LGBTs in a long time. Large numbers of Republicans apparently realized the very broad implications of this bill. Even though it was originally written to denigrate lesbians, gays and bisexuals (LGBs), it would have affected a wide range of heterosexual couples. Very large numbers of GOP representatives voted against it.

The bill would have given immunity to business owners and individuals who were motivated by their conscience or religious beliefs to discriminate by refusing services, accommodations, advantages, facilities, goods, or privileges to any marrying couple on any grounds. They would have been given immunity from human rights laws when they discriminated against any couple whose:

  • gender makeup,
  • religious belief(s),
  • denomination affiliation(s),
  • secular belief(s)
  • race(s),
  • skin color(s),
  • age(s),
  • nationality/nationalities,
  • or any other factor

offended any person or company that provided goods and services to marrying couples.

The laws would have permitted discrimination in hall rentals, wedding dress suppliers, jewelers, wedding cake bakers, wedding photographers, etc. If this bill had been passed, an interracial couple, for example, might have to fight through all kinds of obstacles when organizing their wedding.

The bill was written to protect bigoted people and companies who wanted to denigrate, exclude, and discriminate against loving committed same-sex couples. But it was so sloppily written that it would have allowed discrimination against inter-racial couples; Jewish couples; Atheist, Agnostic, or secular couples; couples from a different denomination; couples who were judged to be too young or immature to be married; infertile couples who could not have children; couples who planned to use birth control to limit, space, or prevent children being conceived. In fact, any form of discrimination would be allowed, and those doing the discriminating would be immune from prosecution under human rights legislation. It would be "open season" on any couple getting married. 1

Alarmed by the rejection of his bill, the prime sponsor, Rep. Jerry Bergevin (R), was concerned that persons of faith would experience increasing government intrusions on their freedom to discriminate against others in the future. He said:

"This should be a very alarming warning. It means we are moving into a brave new world. It may not be your ox being gored at the moment, but just wait, it will be.

He also commented that the bill would have protected "... a Jewish caterer [who] wants to refuse to serve pork at a wedding reception."

Rep. Barry Palmer (R)-Nashua, who was a member of the New Hampshire Human Rights Commission, described the bill was unconstitutional, illegal, immoral and mean-spirited. He said:

"I have a rough idea of what discrimination is. This bill is illegal by state statute and illegal by federal law."

Shawn Jasper (R), the House Deputy Majority Leader, noted that members of the clergy who want to discriminate by denying marriage to any couple are already protected by the 2009 same-sex marriage law. He said that to expand this immunity to companies and individuals "... would be an extremely slippery slope to be traveling down."

Jasper said that individuals have the right to purchase goods and services from whomever they wish: "No one should ever be able to put up a sign in New Hampshire that says 'Poultry farmers not welcome'."

The desire to have the religious freedom to discriminate and oppress minorities collided with elementary human rights legislation, and the former lost! Whether a narrowly written bill that would only allow the religious freedom to denigrate same-sex couples would have passed is anyone's guess.

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Responses to the article in the Union Leader:

Initial responses by readers to the article in the Union Leader were angry that the bill had been defeated:

  • Allan Trombley said sarcastically: "Love the way the leftist extremist are keeping government OUT of their lives. Services performed at the point of a gun! Any Republican who voted against personal choice should be removed from office."

    [Webmaster's note: The 2009 law that legalized same-sex marriages specifically allows clergy the right to refuse to marry couples for any reason. The U.S. Constitution gives them even greater protection. However, Justices of the Peace have taken an oath to follow state law without discrimination].

  • Ross Mansfield said: "So let me get this right. People are forced to accept gay marriage despite their beliefs, but if some kids want to say a prayer before school starts with a moment of silence they are banned from doing so because it might offend a few people. Shouldn't others also be forced to accept that some people might want to pray?

    [Webmaster's note: Students are free can pray individually or as a group on the school bus, at the flagpole, in the corridors, in the cafeteria, in a school room before the class starts or after classes end, in a Bible study club, etc. However, the school is not allowed to hold scheduled prayers as a scheduled part of the instruction.]

    As always some people's beliefs are more important than other people's and it simply depends on what the fad of the day is in politics. These discrimination laws are maybe thirty years old and now we all get to see just how they are used not to ensure our freedom to choose but to shape society by declaring some people have more rights than others.

    Special rights for special people will lead to minority rule. How about if we just tell all the busy bodies in government to mind their own business."

    [Webmaster's note: As noted above, the 2009 law that legalized same-sex marriages protects clergy who want to refuse to marry any couples for any reason.

  • N Ellen Reynolds said: " So it's not OK to refused to perform gay marriages based on religious beliefs but it's OK to allow employers to refuse to provide contraceptives based on their religious beliefs? What is the message the NH House of Representatives are trying to send? Are those people completely whacked or what? Get the h-e-l-l out of our personal lives! Bring it on, November!"

  • Ross Mansfield said: "... Allan ... still thinks Americans have two parties with two different points of view rather than the two headed snake we all really have. Its still just one snake but many are deceived by the second head and bravado speak every four years. Laugh now but one day your freedom to choose will be taken, its only a matter of time now. Your only fooling yourselves now because you got what you wanted, but now that the power has been granted your day will come.

  • lloyd clement said: "The issue here is big government, be it liberal or conservative within the realms of Democrat or Republican, with big government, nobody wins. The purpose of the constitution is to keep government out of our lives, we must get back to the constitution and recognize it for what it is. There is good law and there is bad law, but no matter how you slice it a law is an infringement on liberty. We now have too much law, convoluted law, and getting out of it is nearly impossible."

  • Chris Kofer said: "Bergevin is paving the way for an Islamic fundamentalist occupation of this country."

    [Webmaster's note: It may be worth noting that six countries in the world whose main religion is fundamentalist Islam execute lesbians and gays.]

  • lloyd clement said: "... I do not see gay marriage as a true real baby-making family style marriage. I am not saying a disapprove, but I just can't see it. Marriage is a man and a woman, having babies, and making the best of life for their family. It has been that way for a very very long time. The core of this issue is recognition. ..."

However there were a few comments posted by persons who were pleased that the law was defeated:

  • Denise Turcotte said: "lloyd: ... I don't agree with your stand on ' Marriage is a man and a woman, having babies, and making the best of life for their family'. Perhaps your gay friends are not the reproducing kind, however, my friends are. In the last month, 3 of my friends have given birth to beautiful babies and 2 of those friends are in same sex relationships. So, by my experience, your stand doesn't really hold water for me. I have many other friends than just those 2 who are in same sex relationships and have given birth. I also have many friends who are in opposite sex relationships and have given birth. All those relationships are made up of hard working people who are (as you put it), making the best of life for their families. Again, what is your point? And just to simplify things even further for you to know what kind of person I really am... I have friends... period! I don't label them one way or the other unless I am trying to prove my point to people who don't know me."

  • Bob Jean said: "I'm a wedding photographer. Any photographer who doesn't want to photograph a gay wedding should send their couples to me. Any gay or lesbian couple who is or has been discriminated against regarding wedding photography would get a special -- very reduced -- rate from me. Shame on this legislation."

  • Gary Way said: "It's reassuring to know there only 85 bigots in the New Hampshire legislature. I thought there were more."

  • Chris Kofer said: "Ross nobody is forcing you to marry a man."

  • Denise Turcotte said: "@ Ross : why would I care what anyone thinks about gay marriage? Is there something wrong with everyone being treated equally? I think that was the reason why the US finally agreed to legalize inter racial marriage, because it was the right thing to do. Why should any American citizen be treated differently and told they can't legally be married just because they are just a little different from the scared man living next to them? Give me a break Ross. Just admit that you can't handle anything that is different from you."

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References used:

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

  1. Garry Rayno, "Bill to allow refusal of service for gay weddings squashed," Union Leader, 2012-MAR-15, at:

Copyright © 2012 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2012-MAR-16
Latest update: 2012-MAR-17
Author: B.A. Robinson

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