New Hampshire Senate Passes Gay Marriage Bill

by Steve Weinstein

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Wednesday April 29, 2009

The New Hampshire state Senate's vote today to legalize same-sex marriage. The Senate voted 13-11, on a second reading, in favor of an amended version of a bill that had passed the House last month by a 186-179 vote.

Since the Senate voted on an amended version, the bill will return to the House again, where it is expected to pass.

The Union-Leader, the state's major newspaper, quoted Senate Judiciary Committee chair Sen. Deborah Reynolds, who opposed the bill, as saying voters in her district favored it. She said the added wording "gives everyone in the state the right to seek a civil marriage ... This is a compromise that is respectful to both sides in this debate and meets our shared goals of equality in state laws for all the people of New Hampshire. The people of this sate share the core values of equality for all, tolerance and acceptance regardless of our differences."

The Senate Republicans voted as a block against it, but Sen. Matthew Houde expressed the view that younger voters have accepted gay marriage as a given. "This is not a question of 'if' for me. It's a question of 'when,'" Houde told the Union-Leader. "We should be eager to be on the right side of this issue."

New Hampshire already allowed civil unions. That took effect a year ago.

"Just one month ago, there were only two states where same-sex couples could marry," said Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese in a statement. "Now, with this vote in New Hampshire, we are on the verge of having five states that recognize marriage equality for same-sex couples. It's been quite a month, and we look forward to more states joining this group."

HRC quoted a recent poll from New Hampshire Freedom to Marry that purported to show 55% of New Hampshire voters supporting gay marriage, with only 39% opposed.

The vote now goes to John Lynch, the governor. He hasn't signaled whether or not he will sign but, as a Democrat, the pressure will probably be on him to do so.

If and when he does, it will mark New England as the most forward-thinking part of the country by far on this issue. While Iowa just started marrying gay couples, every other state that does so--Massachusetts, Connecticut and Vermont--are in this ancient part of the country.

Furthermore, the other two states in the region--Rhode Island and Maine--are increasingly looking as though they may follow. And the giant state immediately to the south, New York, recognizes gay marriages conducted in other jurisdictions. Its governor is fast-tracking gay marriage there.

Steve Weinstein has been a regular correspondent for the International Herald Tribune, the Advocate, the Village Voice and Out. He has been covering the AIDS crisis since the early '80s, when he began his career. He is the author of "The Q Guide to Fire Island" (Alyson, 2007).