Thursday, June 4, 2009

New Hampshire Passes Marriage Equality

A small compromise on language made the difference, and the Granite State becomes the sixth state to allow same-sex marriage.

Gay marriage legislation became law in New Hampshire this afternoon.

Gov. John Lynch signed the bills just after 5:20 p.m. before dozens of enthusiastic supporters of same-sex marriage.

New Hampshire’s law takes effect Jan. 1.

HB 73, compromise legislation demanded by the governor, was passed by a vote of 14-10 in the Senate and 198-176 in the House today. HB 73 (text), was an add-on to the gay marriage bill itself, HB 436 (text), and to HB 310 (text), which made technical changes to the main bill.

HB 73 clarifies the rights of religious organizations and their employees to refuse to participate in same-sex marriage ceremonies or celebrations. It states that religious groups have exclusive control over doctrine, teaching and beliefs on who can marry within theirfaiths.

The House refused to go along with the Lynch language protecting religion two weeks ago, failing to pass the measure by a single vote.

Some who voted against it at the time said the House was being asked to agree to changes without being given enough time to examine them.

House opponents aired the same complaints today, but the tide had shifted.

“The House has always taken the time to consider the unintended consequences of any bill,” said Rep. Betsey Patten, R-Moultonborough.

Supporters of the bill said the new language protects religious beliefs and individual rights.

Exemptions for religious groups is a reasonable compromise; I don’t want the state dictating to churches what they can or can’t do — within reason — any more than I want the churches to dictate to the state who gets rights and who doesn’t. (Oh, wait….)

Anyway, it’s a good day for equality in New England and the rest of the country. Six down; forty-four to go.