Cheryl Senter/AP
New Hampshire Gov. John Lynch

New Hampshire Is Sixth State to Ratify Gay Marriage

June 04, 2009 06:15 PM
by Rachel Balik
After weeks of work on specific language pertaining to religious groups, the New Hampshire legislature and the governor agreed on a gay marriage bill.

After Struggles With Wording, N.H. Finally Legalizes Gay Marriage

New Hampshire Gov. John Lynch had previously been on record as supporting civil unions but not gay marriage. After he refrained from signing a gay marriage bill passed by the state legislature, a committee worked for several weeks to reword the language of the bill. Lynch’s focus, The Associated Press reported, was ensuring that religious groups would not be obligated to support, perform or recognize gay marriages.

Lynch had also wanted the bill to state that religious leaders would not have to provide certain services for gay couples, such as marriage counseling, reports The New York Times. The state Senate passed that version of the bill at the end of May, but the House rejected it. After some rewording, the bill passed both chambers of the legislature on Wednesday.

When Lynch signed the bill into law, he made a speech stating that the argument for gay marriage instead of civil unions was “compelling.”

The Union Leader reported that the committee was able to agree on the new language in just two hours. Earlier, Sen. Shelia Roberge was removed from the committee for demanding language that many felt was discriminatory. She wanted private businesses to be able to refuse to provide wedding services for gay couples on the basis of religious beliefs, but most felt that language was too strong.

The bill does grant “educational or charitable organizations” the right to refuse to provide benefits to couples whose marriage conflicts with their religious beliefs.

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Background: Governor stalls approval of gay marriage bill

In early May, the New Hampshire legislature narrowly voted in a gay marriage bill, following in the footsteps of neighboring New England states. Gov. Lynch made no comment at the time when the bill was passed, and did not move to sign it into law. He was barraged with calls from both supporters and opponents of gay marriage. His challenge was to please his constituents while not compromising his own beliefs.

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