An amended bill, HB 436, was prepared that would protect churches and church
workers from lawsuits in the event that they want to discriminate against
same-sex couples who wish to be married. The amendments would grant immunity
to pastors, organists, etc. from penalties assigned by the Human Rights
The Senate Judiciary Committee passed the bill
by a vote of 3 to 2, along strict party lines. On 2009-MAY-20, the full Senate approved the changes by a vote of 14 to 10.
On the same day, the House rejected the bill very narrowly by a vote of 188 to
186. Opponents tried to kill the bill at this point, but were not successful.
The House then voted 207 to 168 to form a "committee of conference" which will
be made up of members of the House and Senate who voted for the bill. Their task
was to modify the bill so that it will pass both houses.
Marty Rouse, national field director of the Human Rights Campaign
noted that the bill remained viable. He said:
"While the House voted not to adopt today's version of the amended
marriage bill by a very close vote of 186-188, clearly the members of the
House want to see marriage equality passed based on the strong vote not to
kill it entirely."
Steve Vaillancourt (R), who is openly gay, expressed
opposition to the amendment. He said that the amendment was a step backwards
that would write into New Hampshire law permission for churches to discriminate.
Referring to the narrow defeat of the bill, Kevin Smith, executive director of Cornerstone Policy
Research -- a group opposed to marriage equality -- said: "We are pleased that common sense
Sylvia Larsen (D), the Senate's president said: "We recognize this is part of
the normal process of passing significant legislation and I look forward to
working with my House colleagues on this bill."
Bill finally succeeds; SSM bill is signed into law:
On 2009-JUN-03, the House and Senate were able to establish compromise wording on the SSM
bill that both could vote in favor of. The Senate had a party-line vote. The
House passed the bill with a healthy 22 vote margin.
Cornerstone Policy Research broadcast a TV ad titled "His Word," in an
attempt to persuade the Governor Lynch to veto the bill.
The governor did not follow CPR's advice. He signed the bill into law on the evening of 2009-JUN-03. He
also stated that he is in favor of the federal government repealing its
Defense of Marriage Act so that married same-sex couples can obtain the
approximately 1,100 benefits and obligations that are currently reserved as special
privileges for opposite-sex married couples. 12
Kevin Smith, Executive Director of CPR Action
"The Governor evidently has no problem misleading the
voters of this state, while giving into the outside special interests pushing
this radical agenda. ... In one fell swoop of the pen, the Governor managed to
not only sign an unpopular piece of legislation, but did so while breaking his
trust with the citizens of this state - a move we are confident that the voters
will not soon forget." 4
New England Cable News (NECN) reported:
New Hampshire thus became the seventh U.S. state to
legalize marriage for all loving committed couples, both opposite-sex and
same-sex. Six other states had preceded New Hampshire's action: California,
Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, Idaho, and Vermont, although California's SSM
was terminated by a very narrow vote in Proposition 8.
Apparently Governor Lynch did not get all that he asked for. The law will not
protect individuals and small businesses who wish to discriminate against
same-sex couples. For example, justices of the peace, restaurant owners, flower vendors, wedding
photographers, etc. who normally provide the public with their services but who
want to refuse them to same-sex couples might have problems with the New
Hampshire Commission for Human Rights.
Same-sex couples will be able to obtain marriage licenses on 2010-JAN-02. A
year later, all civil unions in New Hampshire will automatically be converted
into civil marriages.
Can the law be later invalidated?:
Janson Wu, a staff attorney for Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders
(GLAD) outlined several methods by which the state Constitution could be amended
in order to invalidate the SSM bill that has been signed into law:
The Constitution has a provision for a voter-initiated constitutional
amendment, like California's Proposition system.
The General Court (a.k.a. the state legislature) consisting of the House
of Representatives and Senate, could pass an amendment in the unlikely event
that they could achieve a super-majority vote (60% or more).
The voters could initiate a constitutional convention as soon as 2012 to
modify the constitution to incorporate discrimination into its wording.
However, each path would have to go to the voters for final ratification.
This would require a two-thirds vote to pass. 5
Kevin Smith of Cornerstone Policy Research
said that his group is considering two actions in attack the new law:
To place a non-binding referendum on the
To mount a campaign to place "... pro-family, pro-marriage folks back in the Legislature, and hopefully repeal
this law." By "pro-family" they appear to mean legislators who are opposed
to the recognition of families headed by same-sex couples; by "pro-marriage"
they appear to mean legislators who are opposed to the recognition of
loving, committed same-sex relationships.
The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above
essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.