CONCORD, N.H. (BP)–A bill that would make New Hampshire the fifth state to legalize “gay marriage” passed the state Senate Wednesday, putting the spotlight on Democratic Gov. John Lynch, who has said he opposes redefining marriage but who has yet to take a position on the bill.
The bill, H.B. 436, passed 13-11, well shy of a veto-proof Senate majority; it previously passed the state House, 186-179. The Senate version contained an amendment, so the two chambers must reconcile the differences before it goes to Lynch. Voting against the bill were all 10 Republican senators and one Democrat.
Opponents said the bill would negatively impact religious freedoms and impact what is taught in public schools.
“Gov. Lynch has said all along that he opposes same-sex marriage and that he thinks the word marriage should be reserved for traditional marriage only,” Kevin Smith, executive director of the New Hampshire-based Cornerstone Policy Research, which opposed the bill, told Baptist Press. “He has told us over and over that he does not support this, so let’s see if he holds true to his word.”
As recently as April 15, Lynch was quoted as saying in The Union-Leader newspaper, “I think the word marriage is reserved for a marriage between a man and a woman, and I think the real issues really are rights and protections for gay and lesbian couples.” Lynch added he believes the state’s same-sex civil unions law is adequate.
But Lynch will face extensive pressure in the coming days either to change his position or to allow the bill to become law without his signature.
The push to pass the bill in New Hampshire is part of a wider strategy by the Massachusetts-based Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders to legalize “gay marriage” in all six New England states by 2012. The group has dubbed the effort “6×12,” and so far, three states — Massachusetts, Connecticut and Vermont — have legalized “gay marriage,” and Maine soon may follow. The Maine legislative Judiciary Committee passed a “gay marriage” bill Tuesday, 11-2-1.
Passage of a bill in New Hampshire would be a significant victory for homosexual activists because the bill’s prospects appeared questionable in recent days. The Senate Judiciary Committee recommended in a 3-2 vote that the full chamber defeat the bill, with chairwoman and Sen. Deborah Reynolds, a Democrat, joining two Republicans in voting against it.
But Reynolds switched her vote on the floor and supported the bill, saying an amendment to the bill that made clear the differences between civil marriage and religious marriage allowed her to support it.
“They are trying to make the case,” Smith said, “that this is a great compromise because now you can have religious marriage and you can have civil marriage. Well, you already can have religious and civil marriage under the law here, for heterosexuals. They were making it like this is a new program. It’s a smokescreen.”
Smith wrote on his blog that the bill should be defeated because children need mothers and fathers and the bill would deprive children of one or the other.
“If society sanctions marriages that make it impossible for children to be raised by either their mother or father, ultimately children suffer,” he wrote. “… Gender-neutral marriage will create a conflict between adult desires for acceptance, and the rights and needs of children.”
Democrats took control of both chambers in 2006 and since then have passed a slew of liberal-backed bills, including the one legalizing civil unions.
Michael Foust is assistant editor of Baptist Press. To read how “gay marriage” impacts parental rights and religious freedom click here