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Same sex marriage (SSM) in New Hampshire

Governor Lynch approves the SSM
bill in principle, but asks for changes.

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Governor conditionally approves bill:

As mid-2009-April approached. there was extensive speculation by the media that the bill had been on the governor's desk for over 5 days and thus had automatically become law. The state constitution states:

"If any bill shall not be returned by the governor within five days (Sundays excepted) after it shall have been presented to him, the same shall be a law in like manner as if he had signed it unless the legislature, by their adjournment, prevent its return, in which case it shall not be a law." 1

However, it turns out that the bill had been delayed in reaching his desk. So the five-day clock had not started.

On 2009-MAY-14, Governor Lynch said that he had talked with legislators, religious leaders and voters about the SSM bill. He said that he would sign the bill, but only if the Legislature first modified it to give greater protections to individuals and churches who wanted to continue to discriminate against same-sex couples. That way, individual congregations could reject requests by same-sex couples to:

bulletBe married in the church sanctuary,
bulletRent a church hall,
bulletAttend a religious retreat together,
bulletTake a church-sponsored pre-marital educational course,
bulletObtain couples' counseling, etc.

In addition, clergy, organists, and other employees who normally provide wedding services to the public could freely discriminate against same-sex couples without running the risk of a lawsuit. Finally, discrimination by independent contractors, like florists, wedding photographers, limousine drivers, etc. would also be protected by the revised legislation.

Governor Lynch stated:

"If the legislature passes this language, I will sign the same-sex marriage bill into law. If the legislature doesn't pass these provisions, I will veto it." 2

The New York Times quoted Governor Lynch as stating:

"New Hampshire's great tradition has always been to come down on the side of individual liberties and protections. But following that tradition means we must act to protect both the liberty of same-sex couples and religious liberty." 3

An excerpt from the Good Morning Live program of New England Cable News (NECN):

House Speaker Terie Norelli said she would act on the governor's suggestions as quickly as possible.

Sylvia Larsen, President of the Senate, believed that the changes would be made. She said:

"I applaud the governor for keeping an open mind. ... The language that we will be addressing only improves the protections for religious organizations and individuals."

Representative James Splaine, who is the primary sponsor of bill, predicted:

"We can find a way to do that in the next week or two, and then we'll have marriage equality."

This opened a path whereby New Hampshire became the sixth U.S. state to legalize SSM.

Critical voices:

There was some criticism of Governor Lynch's decision:

bulletKevin H. Smith, executive director of Cornerstone Policy Research, said Lynch had "broken his trust with New Hampshire voters."
bulletJohn Sununu, head of the state's Republican Party and past governor said that Lynch had "... wiggled out of his commitment to traditional marriage." 4
bulletCPR Action, the legislative action arm of Cornerstone Policy Research -- a conservative activist group opposed to marriage equality -- stated:

"Governor Lynch has proposed a 'cover' religious exemption amendment - much like the same smokescreen amendment the Senate added. This new language adds protections for religious organizations that are ALREADY covered under the First Amendment - but still does NOTHING to protect independent business owners and persons of faith, who are Justices of the Peace, who will now be forced to provide their services for gay 'marriage' ceremonies or risk being fined up to $50,000 by the Human Rights Commission!"

"Now, the legislature is going to add yet another amendment to another bill (the third one) in an attempt to "fix" what was a very poorly written bill to begin with." 5

In common with many other conservative groups, they enclose the word marriage in quotation marks to indicate their refusal to recognize SSM as a valid form of marriage.

References used:

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

  1. "Governor Lynch Lets Deadline Pass - Is Gay Marriage Now Legal in New Hampshire?" LezGetReal, at: http://lezgetreal.com/
  2. "N.H. governor may approve gay-marriage bill," Reuters, 2009-MAY-14, at: http://www.reuters.com/
  3. Abby Goodnough, "New Hampshire Pact Near on Same-Sex Marriage," New York Times, 2009-MAY-14, at: http://www.nytimes.com/
  4. Eric Moskowitz, "N.H. set to OK same-sex marriage. Lynch to sign bill if religious groups gain protections," The Boston Globe, 2009-MAY-15, at: http://www.boston.com/
  5. "Governor Lynch to sign gay marriage bill if House and Senate make changes," CPR Action, undated, at: http://www.cpraction.org/ This is a temporary listing and will probably be removed when the next civil rights conflict arises.

Copyright © 2009 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2009-APR-19
Latest update: 2009-JUN-04
Author: B.A. Robinson

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