Now, It’s New Hampshire’s Turn: Marriage Bill Goes to Governor

by Steve Weinstein

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Wednesday May 6, 2009

Remember this day: on May 6, 2009, the governor of Maine signed a bill into law making it the fifth state to allow marriage equality. And on that day, the New Hampshire House sent its own same-sex marriage bill to their governor.

The New Hampshire House sent the bill to Gov. John Lynch for signature after voting 178-167 to revisions sent down from the State Senate. The House passed a marriage bill back in March, but the Senate's version amended a weird wording that had crept into the bill that only allowed "ministers of the gospel" to perform marriage rites.

Obviously, aside from larger First Amendment questions, such a bill wouldn't sit well with rabbis or Quakers, now added.

Not surprisingly, the vote was down party lines, with Republicans complaining about wording. They argued about details concerning those with religious beliefs who would not want any wedding business--such as caterers or photographers--being forced to make some extra money.

Many observers pooh-poohed the arguments as window dressing. But Republicans held their ground.

"This is yet another instance of last-minute arm twisting and backroom deals to rush through legislation New Hampshire isn't ready for," Senate Minority Leader Peter Bradgon told the Union-Leader, the state's major newspaper.

Now the pressure is on Lynch, whose office is being besieged with phone calls, emails, telegrams and every other form of communication, most of it apparently from pro gay-marriage advocates.

Lynch has indicated that he is against the bill. Many believe he will take a passive role, letting the bill sit on his desk until it becomes law without his signature.

A similar situation happened in Maine, where the Democratic governor preferred civil unions. In the end, however, Gov. John Baldacci gave a ringing endorsement to gay marriage.

In New England, the tide toward gay marriage has turned into a tsunami. Massachusetts was the first state to allow gay marriage, five years ago. Iowa and Connecticut legalized it in quick succession this year.

Now, with Maine and New Hampshire, there is only tiny Rhode Island standing in the way of all of New England becoming Gay Marriage Central. New York State is fast-tracking its own gay marriage, with New Jersey expected to follow, making the whole Northeast a Gay Marriage Corridor.

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).