New Hampshire House balks on marriage equality bill

UPDATE: See first comment. Reuters says

The state's House of Representatives objected to language in the bill [added at the insistence of the governor] that would have allowed religious groups to decline to participate in same-sex marriage ceremonies or to offer gay couples other services.

A handful of gay-rights proponents sided with Republicans in the Democratic-controlled House to vote down the bill....

The Boston Herald adds:

Among the onlookers was Episcopal Bishop Gene Robinson, the first openly gay bishop in the church. He said the House pushed the pause button, not reverse, and is optimistic lawmakers will come up with an acceptable bill this session.

____

Bay Windows:

The New Hampshire Senate passed it, the governor was standing by to sign it, and many expected approval of a final same-sex marriage bill in the House today could be swift and routine.

But in a surprise turnabout, the New Hampshire House voted narrowly Wednesday afternoon to defeat the measure, 186 to 188.

When the House Speaker announced the vote in the House, the chamber erupted with sounds of both distress and applause. Supporters and opponents then launched immediate efforts to both save and kill the measure for this legislative session.

Comments (1)

Reuters carries a much different version of this report, indicating that the bill is far from dead:

A bill that would have made New Hampshire the sixth state in the United States to authorize gay marriage stalled unexpectedly Wednesday over concessions to religious groups opposed to such unions.

The state's House of Representatives objected to language in the bill that would have allowed religious groups to decline to participate in same-sex marriage ceremonies or to offer gay couples other services.

A handful of gay-rights proponents sided with Republicans in the Democratic-controlled House to vote down the bill 188-186 Wednesday, hours after the Senate approved the gay-marriage legislation by 14-10 along party lines.

....

To strike a compromise, both chambers had been asked to approve language that would give clergy and others affiliated with religious organizations a number of legal protections, including the right to decline to marry same-sex couples or to provide gay couples with services such as counseling.

The wording was added by Governor John Lynch, a centrist Democrat who said previously that marriage should be exclusively between a man and a woman but agreed last week to sign the bill if his changes were made.

...
The vote against the governor's amendment sends the bill to a committee where lawmakers from both chambers will try to resolve their differences.

THREATENED VETO

"We recognize this is part of the normal process of passing significant legislation and I look forward to working with my House colleagues on this bill," said Senate President Sylvia Larsen, a Democrat.

The governor has said he would veto gay marriage if his wording was not adopted.

....

State Representative Steve Vaillancourt, an openly gay Republican, was a leading voice against the amendment securing religious liberties, saying the House should not be "bullied" by the governor.

He said an earlier bill that passed both chambers and was on the governor's desk should have been made law, calling the amendment a step backward that would allow discrimination to be written into New Hampshire law.

www.reuters.com/article/topNews/idUSTRE54J6BK20090520

There is an unfortunate level of politicking about this language, because the First Amendment already guarantees the right of churches, mosques, synagogues, and individual clergy to refuse to marry anyone they wish. (Which is what gives clergy the right, for example, to refuse to perform a marriage for a couple of a different faith, or to refuse a second marriage after a divorce, etc., even when those marriages are perfectly legal under civil law.) It's a big ruckus about political appearances.

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