16 May 2009

New Hampshire Nears Equality

In January of 2008, civil unions for same-sex couples became law in my home state of New Hampshire. This was a wonderful advance for us, and I had friends and close family members who were civilly unified. Now, it looks like we're about to take the next step toward full equality. From Governor Lynch's press release yesterday:
This morning, I met with House and Senate leaders, and the sponsors of this legislation, and gave them language that will provide additional protections to religious institutions.

This new language will provide the strongest and clearest protections for religious institutions and associations, and for the individuals working with such institutions.
It will make clear that they cannot be forced to act in ways that violate their deeply held religious principles.

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.

We can and must treat both same-sex couples and people of certain religious traditions with respect and dignity.

I believe this proposed language will accomplish both of these goals and I urge the legislature to pass it. [emphasis added]
The additions the governor has proposed to the bill are pretty specific, mostly aimed at giving churches the freedom not to participate in marriage ceremonies, and generally unobjectionable. There's some discussion of the language at the Blue Hampshire blog, with mixed feelings and concerns among the commenters, but I can't imagine any of our legislators think the language is worth fighting a veto for, so I expect the legislature will pass the additions without any problem.

The Concord Monitor summed things up well in an editorial:

Assuming legislative leaders can rally yet another positive vote, gay couples and families will no longer be treated as second-class citizens by New Hampshire law. That's not true of federal statutes, of course, but the growing number of states and courts to come to this conclusion will surely get Washington's attention.

Even if he hadn't wanted to veto the gay marriage bill, Lynch could have let it become law without his signature. Instead, he has chosen to get out front. History will surely show that he was on the side of justice. He has made a powerful statement in support of individual liberties and nondiscrimination.

Thank you, Governor.

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