Legalizing Gay Marriage
The same-sex marriage bill that eventually passed in New Hampshire was revised and changed several times. Governor Lynch, along with other legislators, required that the legalization of gay marriage not force religious groups (that oppose it) to participate in gay marriage ceremonies. Religious organizations were concerned about being sued for refusing to marry same-sex couples on their property.
In early June of 2009, all the necessary changes were made, Lynch signed the bill and New Hampshire was the sixth state to allow gay marriage.
Same-sex marriage is limited in New Hampshire because of the entire political battle behind it. At first, Lynch was only in agreement with civil unions for same-sex couples. Eventually, he was convinced that a separate system is not equal and decided to stand “up for the liberties of same-sex couples by making clear that they will receive the same rights, responsibilities—and respect—under New Hampshire law.”
He had threatened to veto the bill if changes were not made to exempt clergy and other religious employees from ceremonies; he later demanded that members of religious groups not be required to offer support to gay couples including counseling and housing. Despite making same-sex marriage legal, some of the exceptions call into question how equal marriage will be for gay couples.
Opponents of the bill (still) do not feel that it does enough because, essentially, it does not protect every individual who could be called upon to participate in a gay wedding like a photographer or florist. Opponents also question the validity of the bill and whether it was made law under standard procedures.
How Long Will Gay Marriage Remain Legal?
The issue that is currently in the news is that lawmakers will soon vote on whether or not to repeal the gay marriage law passed in 2009. There is a Republican majority in both chambers, but not all Republicans support it despite Representative David Bates, who is sponsoring the repeal bill, fully expecting it to pass. His only concern is Governor Lynch’s likely veto. In this case, supporters of the repeal bill would have to win with a two-thirds majority to override the veto.
If the law that legalized gay marriage is repealed, New Hampshire will be the first state to revoke the legalization of gay marriage.
In the attempt to draw attention, state and national organizations are joining in New Hampshire’s fight. Bates claims the bill’s success would reflect what citizens nationwide really want—based on the response of constituents in California, Maine and Iowa.
The only positive point that Bates has to offer is that his bill would not nullify or in any way affect same-sex couples that married between 2009 and the present. His bill would eliminate marriage for gay couples but allow civil unions, which was the state’s law before 2009.
The New Hampshire House made attempts to prevent banning gay marriage but that was before Republicans did well in November elections.
At this point, the intention is to create a “separate but equal” system, but gay marriage supporters are questioning how “equal” civil unions are to marriage because the bill makes no mention of work rights, adoption or any other rights, for that matter. Both proponents and opponents argue that they have the “public’s opinion” but there is no real evidence that this is true for either side. In the last election, neither Democrats nor Republicans made gay marriage the focus of their campaigns so legally, it was not an issue that voters were asked to seriously consider.
- Is gay marriage allowed? Yes, at the moment.
- Are civil unions legal? Yes.
- Is legal same-sex marriage under threat? Yes.
- Will married gay couples be affected if the law is repealed? No.