N.H. House Hearing Today on Gay Marriage Bills

768px-concord_new_hampshire_state_house_20041229Dueling bills–one that would ban gay marriage in New Hampshire and another that would legalize it, are on the docket today in the Granite State, which currently offers civil unions. Legislators are unlikely to vote on either measure, but they’ll listen to testimony from the marriage bill’s sponsors, Representatives Jim Splaine and Paul McEachern as well as New Hampshire Episcopal bishop Gene Robinson as well as testimony from the opposing marriage ban bill, which, in libertarian-leaning New Hampshire doesn’t stand a chance. Gov. John Lynch signed the state’s 2007 civil unions bill, but previously stated that he doesn’t support gay marriage.

The NH Seacoast has the details on the bill
, which, if passed would make New Hampshire the third New England state (after Massachusetts and Connecticut) to legalize same-sex marriage:

“If passed… it would recognize marriage as, according to the bill’s text, “the legally recognized union of two people. Any person who otherwise meets the eligibility requirements of this chapter may marry any other eligible person regardless of gender.”

The bill would also give same gender couples who entered into a civil union before the enactment of this bill the right to obtain the legal status of marriage.

Splaine said the 2007 civil unions legislation, of which he was a prime booster, was a “move toward full equality” but it was time to take next step. Since the law went into effect on Jan. 1, 2008, more than 600 same-sex couples been joined in civil unions. If it passes, New Hampshire would join fellow New England states, Massachusetts and Connecticut, as the only ones legalizing gay marriage.

While some are pushing for gay marriage, other lawmakers want to ban it and repeal current civil union regulations. According to the text of a bill supported by Rep. John Flanders, R-Kingston, and Sen. Jack Barnes, R-Raymond, “Marriage between one man and one woman shall be the only legal domestic union that shall be valid or recognized in this state.” The bill, which would go into effect on Jan. 1, would also delete all references to civil unions in state statutes.”