Gov. Lynch (NH) and Marriage Equality

14 05 2009

Earlier today, Gov. Lynch of New Hampshire stated that he would sign the marriage equality bill passed by both the Senate and the House of that state, with one addendum.

From his statement:

“My personal views on the subject of marriage have been shaped by my own experience, tradition and upbringing. But as Governor of New Hampshire, I recognize that I have a responsibility to consider this issue through a broader lens…

“Two years ago, we passed civil unions legislation here in New Hampshire. That law gave same-sex couples in civil unions the same rights and protections as marriage. And in typical New Hampshire fashion, the people of this state embraced civil unions and agreed we needed to continue our tradition of opposing discrimination.

“At its core, HB 436 simply changes the term ‘civil union’ to ‘civil marriage.’ Given the cultural, historical and religious significance of the word marriage, this is a meaningful change.

“I have heard, and I understand, the very real feelings of same-sex couples that a separate system is not an equal system. That a civil law that differentiates between their committed relationships and those of heterosexual couples undermines both their dignity and the legitimacy of their families.

“I have also heard, and I understand, the concerns of our citizens who have equally deep feelings and genuine religious beliefs about marriage. They fear that this legislation would interfere with the ability of religious groups to freely practice their faiths.

“Throughout history, our society’s views of civil rights have constantly evolved and expanded. New Hampshire’s great tradition has always been to come down on the side of individual liberties and protections.

“That is what I believe we must do today…

“I have examined the laws of other states, including Vermont and Connecticut, which have recently passed same-sex marriage laws. Both go further in protecting religious institutions than the current New Hampshire legislation.

“This morning, I met with House and Senate leaders, and the sponsors of this legislation, and gave them language that will provide additional protections to religious institutions.

“This new language will provide the strongest and clearest protections for religious institutions and associations, and for the individuals working with such institutions.

It will make clear that they cannot be forced to act in ways that violate their deeply held religious principles.

“If the legislature passes this language, I will sign the same-sex marriage bill into law. If the legislature doesn’t pass these provisions, I will veto it.

“We can and must treat both same-sex couples and people of certain religious traditions with respect and dignity.

In short: Gov. Lynch gives a ringing endorsement of civil marriage from the perspective of someone who does not otherwise support it. It’s an impressive and well thought out statement, and I think it gives people from New Hampshire who may not feel entirely comfortable with same-sex marriage a way to say, “You know, he’s right; maybe this isn’t so bad.”

Meanwhile, the new language, which makes exceptions for religious groups, is pretty much the same thing we’ve seen entered in other states. I’m not sure, yet, how I feel about it, and I’m apt to say that it’s a silliness and responds more out of the hysterics of the right rather than reality (because, truly, churches are not required to marry anyone as it is…). However, if this is the path we must walk, then this is the path we must take.

I just have one question: why couldn’t this have been put into the bill a few weeks ago when it was making its way through the Senate and the House?

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