A decision on whether to allow gay and lesbian couples to marry in New Hampshire is expected on Wednesday when the Senate takes up a gay marriage bill.

Last Thursday, the Senate Judiciary Committee voted 3 to 2 against the gay marriage bill that narrowly passed the House last month. Committee Chair Deborah Reynolds, a Democrat, joined the committee's two Republicans, Sheila Roberge of Bedford and Robert J. Letourneau of Derry, in voting against the bill.

The panel's recommendation does not bind the full Senate but is likely to influence the bill's final outcome. Passage in the Democratic-led Senate appeared dim before the recommendation. Governor John Lynch, a Democrat, has said he opposes gay marriage but has remained quiet on whether he would veto the measure should it reach his desk.

Two years ago, lawmakers in the state approved civil unions for gay and lesbian couples. Both the civil union and gay marriage bill were introduced by openly gay Representative Jim Splaine, a Democrat.

In moving against the bill, Reynolds said New Hampshire isn't “ready” for gay marriage, having recently passed civil unions legislation.

The Editorial Board at the 'Concord Monitor' took Reynolds to task, calling her argument a “copout.”

“It's an attempt to signal to gay couples and their supporters that while she doesn't necessarily oppose their efforts, neither will she do anything to help. Her words are rooted not in justice or fairness or courage but in fear. Surely New Hampshire voters can expect more from their elected officials than that,” the board wrote.

Passage in the Senate, however, remains nebulous. Senate Minority Leader Peter Bragdon said he expects all 10 Republican senators to vote against the gay marriage bill. Only eight Democratic senators are on record supporting the bill, leaving the legislation five votes shy of approval.

According to the website BlueHampshire.com, three of the six remaining Democratic senators – Deborah Reynolds of Plymouth, along with Betsi DeVries and Lou D'Allesandro of Manchester – are leaning against passage, while the other three – Peggy Gilmour of Hollis, Sylvia Larsen of Concord and Kathleen Sgambati of Tilton – remain undecided.

Half of the six New England states – Connecticut, Vermont and Massachusetts – have legalized gay marriage. Bills that would legalize gay marriage in the three remaining states of Rhode Island, Maine and New Hampshire are winding through their Legislatures.