State No. 6

BREAKING: NH Gov. John Lynch OKs Gay Marriage, But Only If …

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… legislators insert language making it more explicit that churches, synagogues, and other religious institutions would get to decide whether they perform same-sex marriages. Says Lynch: ““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 we must treat both same-sex couples and people of certain religious traditions with respect and dignity.” The governor points to the language in Connecticut and Vermont passed as an example of the religious declarations he wants.

So how does it affect us normal folks. Well, for instance, “the change … would only give a legal protection to individuals working directly for a religious organization or an entity that a religious group owns or controls … [but would not] permit a self-employed photographer or caterer to refuse to work because a same-sex marriage ceremony violated their own religious beliefs.”

Rep. Jim Splaine, the bill’s primary sponsor, says this is good news. Now the House will need to pass a third version of the same-sex marriage bill while the Senate inserts an amendment in an existing bill in front of legislators. The bills as they stand still need the signatures of Speaker of the House Terie Norelli and Senate President Sylvia Larsen; it’s likely they will hold off signing them until the bills meet Lynch’s requirements.

If all goes according, the bill would update the state’s 2008 civil unions law, automatically converting civil unions to full-blown marriages on Jan. 1, 2011. Oh, and of course New Hampshire would recognize legal same-sex marriages from other states.

Here’s Lynch’s full statement:

The gay marriage debate in New Hampshire has been filled with passion and emotion on all sides. 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.

In the past weeks and months, I have spoken with lawmakers, religious leaders and citizens. My office has received thousands of phone calls, letters and emails. I have studied our current marriage and civil union laws, the laws of other states, the bills recently passed by the legislature and our history and traditions.

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.

But following that tradition means we must act to protect both the liberty of same-sex couples and religious liberty. In their current form, I do not believe these bills accomplish those goals. The Legislature took an important step by clearly differentiating between civil and religious marriage, and protecting religious groups from having to participate in marriage ceremonies that violate their fundamental religious beliefs. “But the role of marriage in many faiths extends beyond the actual marriage ceremony.

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.

I believe this proposed language will accomplish both of these goals and I urge the legislature to pass it.

So what language does Lynch want attached? Here it is verbatim: