Thursday, April 30, 2009

Marriage equality in the Granite State

by Laura Smith-Gary

Look out, people who are afraid of marriage equality, the Gay Marriage Thunderstorm is now not only gathering but is starting to rain a little.

Yesterday, by a vote of 13-11, New Hampshire's Senate passed a bill that would allow same-sex marriage. Although the House has already passed the bill, it's going back to them for approval because the Senate added an amendment, distinguishing between "civil" and "religious" marriage licenses and emphasizing that religious leaders will not be obligated to perform any marriages that they don't want to. The governor, a moderate Democrat, has not yet said whether or not he will sign the bill. In 2007 he signed a bill legalizing same-sex civil unions, but he opposes the bill as he does not believe in applying the word "marriage" to same-sex couples.

If the bill is signed into law New Hampshire will become the fifth state to legalize same-sex marriage, and the second state to do so through its legislature. As the picture of activist judges ramming through a Gay Agenda against the will of the people erodes, and as legislators take steps to extra steps to ensure that even intolerant religious freedom is not threatened by this civil action, it seems that opponents of gay marriage are being forced back into a few tenuous arguments: children are better off being raised by a mother and a father (and that it's the state's responsibility to make that happen by outlawing gay marriage...but not, say, divorce), and the definition of marriage is sacred and cannot be abridged. It's interesting to me the official opposition in this case seem to be leaning pretty heavily on the "definition" argument -- perhaps they realize the number of terrible heterosexual parents in traditional marriages and the number of wonderful homosexual, single, or other "nontraditional" parents seriously undermines that argument. Or perhaps the "definition" argument is one you can whip out when you're trying to appease your constituents who favor marriage equality (because you do support civil unions!) and also those who favor inequality (because committed same-sex couples are still Different than opposite-sex couples!). Governor Lynch, President Obama and Vice President Biden all make this "I'm not prejudiced nor a radical liberal!" argument.

In any case, we'll see how this unfolds in the next couple of days. One final, lingering question that stands out at me... religious marriage licenses? What? I think the amendment was intended to solidify separation of church and state to assuage the fears of conservative religious folks, but isn't it strange that the state issues "religious marriage licenses" at all? Why do they do that? Shouldn't all state marriage licenses be strictly civil?

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