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Religious Tolerance logo

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

Senate passes civil union bill.
Governor signs it into law.

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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 preventing discrimination."

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 disappointments." 3

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 Government.

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 in 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." 6

MSNBC reported:

"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

References used:

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

  1. Beverley Wang, "Senate: delay vote on civil unions," Associated Press, 2007-APR-14, at: http://www.unionleader.com/
  2. Norma Love, "Gov. Lynch will sign civil unions bill," Union Leader, 2007-APR-20, at: http://www.unionleader.com/
  3. Tony Perkins, "Lynch Flinch on Civil Unions," Washington Update, 2007-APR-20.
  4. Beverly Wang, "N.H. lawmakers approve civil unions," Associated Press, 2007-APR-26, at: http://news.yahoo.com/
  5. John Collins, "Hudson senator slams Lynch's backing of civil unions," The Broadcaster, 2007-MAR-27, at: http://www.nhbroadcaster.com/
  6. "New Hampshire governor signs civil unions bill. Move legalizes unions for gay couples starting next year," MSNBC, 2007-MAY-31, at: http://www.msnbc.msn.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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