Is New Hampshire’s 2-Tier Marriage Law the Most Fair? Or Missing the Point?


As the New Hampshire House moves today the same-sex marriage legislation that the Senate passed last week, you’ll notice some changes. Amendments were added to the bill in the Senate and sent back to the House after legislators there in March already approved the legislation; a House committee yesterday approved the changes, sending the bill to a full vote. So what’s different?

The amendments, which the House is expected to confirm today, make a distinction between civil and religious marriage, and permit the selection of the terms “husband” and “wife” on marriage licenses as well as the plain “spouse.”

The two-tier system means “religious marriages” give discretion to churches and synagogues (and mosques and what have you) as to whether they’ll wed same-sex couples; civil marriages don’t have that requirement, but still get to use the word “marriage.” (Score?)

But while the House is expected to pass the bill, it heads next to the desk of Democratic Gov. John Lynch, who hasn’t said what he’ll do with his pen.

Is the two-tier system a happy compromise between civil rights and religious freedoms? Or does installing a “religious marriage” clause breach that little barrier of church-and-state?