May 14th, 2009
The AP is reporting,
New Hampshire Gov. John Lynch says he will sign a bill to make his state the sixth to legalize gay marriage, but only if it strengthens protections for churches opposed to gay marriage.
He says that the current protections should be beefed up to equal those of Connecticut and Vermont.
The language in HB 436 regarding protections is as follows:
457:37 Affirmation of Freedom of Religion in Marriage. Members of the clergy as described in RSA 457:31 or other persons otherwise authorized under law to solemnize a marriage shall not be obligated or otherwise required by law to officiate at any particular civil marriage or religious rite of marriage in violation of their right to free exercise of religion protected by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution or by part I, article 5 of the New Hampshire constitution.
There is a follow-up bill, HB 310, which provides as follows:
457:31-b Solemnization of Marriage; Applicability.
I. Nothing contained in this chapter shall affect the right of Jewish Rabbis residing in this state, or of the people called Friends or Quakers, to solemnize marriages in the way usually practiced among them, and all marriages so solemnized shall be valid. Jewish Rabbis residing out of the state may obtain a special license as provided by RSA 457:32.
II. Nothing in this chapter shall be construed to prohibit a person authorized to solemnize a marriage in a religious ceremony from solemnizing a marriage in a civil ceremony.
7 Affirmation of Freedom of Religion in Marriage. Amend RSA 457:37 to read as follows:
457:37 Affirmation of Freedom of Religion in Marriage.
I. Members of the clergy as described in RSA 457:31 or other persons otherwise authorized under law to solemnize a marriage shall not be obligated or otherwise required by law to officiate at any particular civil marriage or religious rite of marriage in violation of their right to free exercise of religion protected by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution or by part I, article 5 of the New Hampshire constitution.
II. No religious organization, association, or society, or any nonprofit institution or organization operated, supervised, or controlled by or in conjunction with a religious organization, association, or society, shall be required to participate in a ceremony solemnizing marriage in violation of the religious beliefs of such organization, association, or society.
Taken in combination, the only protections in the Connecticut or Vermont legislation that do not appear to be explicitly stated here is whether such organizations are obligated to provide goods or services (e.g. a hall). I’ve no objection to such a clarification.
Lynch has proposed his own specific language.
“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,” Lynch said. “We can and must treat both same-sex couples and people of certain religious traditions with respect and dignity. I believe this proposed language will accomplish both of these goals and I urge the Legislature to pass it.”
I do not yet have the specific proposed language.
The governor’s suggested changes would make clear that religious groups would not be required to perform gay weddings if their beliefs prohibited it, and that they would not be held liable in court for refusing such services.
The language would also make clear that social groups and other organizations affiliated with religious entities did not have to provide benefits to gay couples.
New York Times says
Legislative leaders indicated they would allow the changes, making it all but certain that New Hampshire will become the sixth state to allow marriage between gay couples.
“New Hampshire\’s great tradition has always been to come down on the side of individual liberties and protections,” Mr. Lynch, a Democrat, said in a statement. “But following that tradition means we must act to protect both the liberty of same-sex couples and religious liberty.”
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