New Hampshire Representative Jim
Splaine's bill that seeks to grant gay and lesbian couples the right
to marry has won approval by the House. Members voted 186-179 to
send the bill to the Senate, where it faces an uncertain future.
Lawmakers approved civil unions for gay
and lesbian couples in 2007. Splaine, an openly gay Democrat, also
sponsored that legislation.
The gay marriage bill, which is
co-sponsored by state Rep. Paul McEachern (Democrat), amends the
current civil unions law to marriage.
“The bill would essentially provide
for full marriage equality,” Splaine told the Portsmouth Herald
News. “I submitted the bill because I think it's important
that we keep this dialogue going.”
The bill was introduced on January 7.
Proponents argued that civil unions
fall short of marriage in terms of legal protections. In New Jersey,
which grants civil unions to gay couples, a recent commission report
found civil unions to be unequal. “This commission finds that the
separate categorization established by the Civil Union Act invites
and encourages unequal treatment of same-sex couples and their
children,” the commission said in their unanimous report.
Last year, New Hampshire lawmakers
passed on a similar Splaine-initiated measure.
Democratic Gov. John Lynch has not
announced if he will veto the bill but remains opposed to gay
marriage. Lynch did sign the 2007 civil unions bill.
Gay marriage became legal last year in
nearby Connecticut and Massachusetts endorsed gay marriage in 2004.
Currently, no state Legislature has passed a gay marriage bill.
Vermont lawmakers remain on a fast track to become the first, but a
promised veto by Gov. Jim Douglas threatens to derail the effort.