New Hampshire is just one vote away
from passing a gay marriage bill – again.
Senators this morning approved a
compromised gay marriage bill that includes the religious protections
sought by Governor John Lynch. The 14 to 10 vote went down along
party lines with all Democrats in support and all Republicans in
But the real fight will come later
today when the House of Representatives takes up the issue.
Last month legislators unexpectedly
passed a gay marriage bill, but Lynch remained coy about whether he
would withhold his signature. House members narrowly approved the
measure and Senators dismissed the recommendation of its Judiciary
Committee, passing the measure on a 13 to 11 vote.
Lynch agreed to go along on the
condition that legislators codify religious exceptions for churches
and their workers. Opponents howled, calling the governor a
turncoat; they said he had broken his promise to protect marriage.
Lynch, a Democrat, had previously said he believes marriage was
between a man and a woman.
Senators approved the changes two weeks
ago but House members balked, defeating the bill along a thin 188 to
186 vote. But House lawmakers also refused to kill the gay marriage
bill for the session, deciding instead to call on the Senate for a
new compromise on the religious exceptions.
The House loss was a terrible blow to
advocates who had been celebrating with recent wins in Iowa, Vermont
and Maine. While advocates remained dazed, opponents took credit for
“Of course it didn't just happen,”
Maggie Gallagher, president of the National Organization for
Marriage, wrote at the National Review blog. “We've figured out
how to go over the heads of the media directly to the people on the
marriage issue – even in New England. Some enterprising reporter
may just ask how?”
But how is no secret. The convolutions
of gay marriage in the House leave little doubt that the chamber is
deeply divided on the issue. Passage in the House then boils down to
who shows up for the vote.
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.
“The recent public discussion on the
issue has shown that marriage is more than a legal right,” said Mo
Baxley, the executive director of the New Hampshire Freedom to Marry
Coalition, in a statement. “Civil unions require unfair treatment
in an unequal institution, and they diminish liberty and freedom for
all Granite Staters. It's clear that a majority of people in New
Hampshire know that it's time for our legislators to act on this
Proponents will continue their push
throughout the day, lobbying undecided House members and, if passed,
urging the governor to sign the bill into law.
Several hundred advocates rallied in
support of the bill at the Statehouse this morning.