Momentum builds for human rights today as the New Hampshire legislature approves gay marriage today. Not civil unions, but gay marriage. One of the strongest arguments in favor of gay marriage came from the Republican side of the aisle.
New Hampshire legislators approved a measure Wednesday that would make the state the sixth to allow gay marriage, and Gov. John Lynch said he would sign it later in the afternoon.
He had promised a veto if the law didn’t clearly spell out that churches and religious groups would not be forced to officiate at gay marriages or provide other services.
The Senate passed the measure Wednesday, and the House — where the outcome was more in doubt — followed later in the day. The House gallery erupted in cheers after the 198-176 vote.
“If you have no choice as to your sex, male or female; if you have no choice as to your color; if you have no choice as to your sexual orientation; then you have to be protected and given the same opportunity for life, liberty and happiness,” Rep. Anthony DiFruscia, R-Windham, said during the hourlong debate.
The qualifying language excluding churches and religious institutions was requested by the governor:
Lynch, a Democrat, personally opposes gay marriage but decided to view the issue “through a broader lens.”
Lynch said he would veto gay marriage if the law didn’t address churches and religious groups.
The revised bill added a sentence specifying that all religious organizations, associations or societies have exclusive control over their religious doctrines, policies, teachings and beliefs on marriage.
It also clarified that church-related organizations that serve charitable or educational purposes are exempt from having to provide insurance and other benefits to same sex spouses of employees. The earlier version said “charitable and educational” instead of “charitable or educational.”
The added language regarding churches is completely unnecessary. The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution keeps the state out of religion:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
The stats cannot compel any church to marry anyone at all. If the added language makes the churches happier, then all the better.
But legal gay marriage is going to happen.