Same sex marriage (SSM) and
civil unions in New Hampshire
Senate passes civil union bill.
Governor signs it into law.
2007-APR-14: Senate vote delayed:
The vote scheduled for APR-18 in the Senate was indefinitely
delayed. Senate President Sylvia Larsen indicated that she is responsible
for postponing the
vote. She said: "I didn't want the senators to be rushed when it came time to be
voting on civil unions." 1
The bill is expected to pass narrowly in the Senate where the Democrats have
a much narrower plurality than in the House. The governor would then have the
choice of signing the bill, vetoing it, or allowing it to become law by default without his signature.
2007-APR-19: Governor favors bill:
Governor John Lynch (D) discussed the bill with lawmakers, including most of
the 24 state senators. He announced that he would sign the bill if it is
approved by the Senate. He told the Associated Press:
"New Hampshire has a proud history and tradition of taking the side of
opposing discrimination where it occurs. This bill will go a long way toward
ensuring that. ... I believe it is a matter of conscience, fairness and
State Republican Chairman Fergus Cullen disagreed, saying:
"The Democrats are going too far, too fast and Governor Lynch is going
along with them. These are not the actions of a moderate governor."
Democratic state Rep. Bette Lasky said:
"It's never going too far when you give people their rights and I
honestly believe that the majority of people in this state want to do just
that and do not want to discriminate."
The Family Research Council's Washington Update covered this story,
quoting the Manchester Union Leader Internet poll, but ignoring the more
accurate Research 2000 poll which shows that a majority of voters favor civil
unions. The Council's report stated:
"... the governor is deliberately misleading voters. The reality is,
civil unions are same-sex 'marriage.' The only difference between the two is
the name. While the term 'civil union' may seem more palatable, make no
mistake--this legislation confers all of the rights and legal standing to
homosexual couples that marriage does. ... A defeat in New Hampshire would
be a significant setback for the sanctity of marriage in New England, which
already counts Massachusetts, Vermont, New Jersey, and Connecticut among its
The report is not accurate. Same-sex couples in New Hampshire would only be
given a few state hundred benefits under the civil union bill. Opposite sex
married couples receive over 1,000 additional benefits from the Federal
The bill was scheduled to be debated during the week of APR-22. Most observers
expect it to pass. It would legalize civil unions starting in 2008.
2007-APR-26: Senate approves bill:
The senate approved the bill by a vote of 14 to 10 on APR-26, strictly along
party lines with all of the Democrats voting in favor and all of the Republicans
voting against the bill.
Episcopal Bishop V. Gene Robinson of New Hampshire, who is the focus of major
unrest in the Anglican Communion, said: "My partner and I look forward to
taking full advantage of the new law."
Sen. Robert Letourneau (R) said:
"Let's just call it what it really is, no sugarcoating. This creates
same-sex marriage. There is no right to marriage in either the New Hampshire
Constitution or the federal Constitution. ... We don't let blind
people drive or felons vote, all for good and obvious reasons."
In reality, opposite-sex married couples will receive the few hundred state
benefits, and over 1,000 federal benefits. Civil unionized opposite-sex couples
will only receive the few hundred state benefits.
Sen. Bob Clegg (R) said:
"Just so you know, it's really gay marriage. It was
done as a 'civil unions' bill, but an addition to the bill in the House
states that if you get married in another state, that marriage will be
recognized under the civil-unions statute. So, basically, they're going to
start recognizing gay marriages performed in other states." 5
State Representative Gail Morrison said:
"My partner and I have already
spoken to our minister and we will be having a civil union the instant it is
possible to do so."
Governor John Lynch signs bill:
Governor John Lynch (D) signed the bill on 2007-MAY-31. It went into effect
2008-JAN. That gives folks in New Hampshire seven months to get used to the idea
of recognizing same-sex relationships instead of treating them as roommates.
Governor Lynch said:
"I've listened and I've heard all the arguments. I do not believe that
this bill threatens marriage. I believe that this is a matter of conscience
and fairness. ... We in New Hampshire have had a long and proud tradition
taking the lead in opposing discrimination. Today that tradition continues."
"Couples who enter civil unions will have the same rights,
responsibilities and obligations as married couples. Same-sex unions from
other states also would be recognized if they were legal in the state where
they were performed."
This is careless reporting. The first sentence is in error. Same-sex couples who enter a civil
union will be denied over 1,000 federal benefits given automatically to
opposite-sex married couples.
Episcopal Bishop Gene Robinson, the first openly gay bishop in the
denomination, was present at the signing. He commented:
"This is not a radical departure. This is a real confirmation of what New
Hampshire has always been about: the freedom of its own citizens and
fairness for everyone."
He said that he would not instruct Episcopal priests in New Hampshire to
bless same-sex unions. He will make the decision a local option for the
individual priests. Robinson said:
"That authority belongs to them and I would not in any way ask them not
to do that. ... Just like in marriages, every priest will have the option to
bless or not to bless." 6
The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above
essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.
Beverley Wang, "Senate: delay vote on civil unions," Associated Press,
Norma Love, "Gov. Lynch will sign civil unions bill," Union Leader,
- Tony Perkins, "Lynch Flinch on Civil Unions," Washington Update,
Beverly Wang, "N.H. lawmakers approve civil unions," Associated Press,
John Collins, "Hudson senator slams Lynch's backing of civil unions," The
Broadcaster, 2007-MAR-27, at:
"New Hampshire governor signs civil unions bill. Move legalizes unions for
gay couples starting next year," MSNBC, 2007-MAY-31, at:
Copyright © 2007 to 2009 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2007-APR-19
Latest update: 2009-MAR-27
Author: B.A. Robinson