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NH legislature votes on civil unions, marriage bills this week, Dem gov silent

On April 4, two bills will come to a vote in the New Hampshire House — HB437, which would create civil unions, and HB791, which would change the marriage statute by  “removing the marriage prohibition for same gender couples and makes references to marriage and terms associated with marriage gender neutral.” A bill for an amendment barring gays and lesbians from marrying was defeated last week. (Concord Monitor):

The bill now in the House would allow same-sex couples to enter civil unions modeled nearly identically after heterosexual marriages. If it becomes law, the measure would add New Hampshire to the small group of states that have extended rights associated with marriage to gay and lesbian couples. Vermont, Connecticut and New Jersey have adopted civil unions, and Maine, California and Hawaii offer domestic partner benefits for all same-sex couples. Massachusetts is the only state that allows gays and lesbians to marry.

Under civil unions, gay couples would have the same rights as married heterosexual couples. For instance, a person would be able to be covered under his or her spouse’s health care plan. The New Hampshire civil unions bill would also require the state to recognize civil unions or gay marriages performed legally elsewhere.

In New Jersey, its legislature voted to create allegedly separate and equal civil unions after its Supreme Court mandated that it had to either open marriage to gays or lesbians, or create CUs. It chose the latter, and now has to deal with the reality that although within the state marriages and CUs are equal, in practice, gay and lesbian couples have to deal with public ignorance about their legal status and what they are entitled to under the law, something married couples take for granted. Civil unions, of course, cannot address the lack of portability outside a state or any of the federal benefits and responsibilities because of DOMA.

New Hampshire is poised to look at both, but the other news here is that New Hampshire’s Democratic Governor, John Lynch, who is in his second term, has been, to be charitable, laid back on the matter, refusing to release a statement in support of CUs — spine MIA — and is already on the record against marriage equality. It shouldn’t be hard to take a position, the civil unions bill is likely to pass by a health margin and has growing support in the Senate, but there you have it, a Dem unwilling to take a public position on civil rights.

Lynch’s views on civil unions are a mystery to many members of the Legislature. In the past, Lynch has said he opposes outright gay marriage. The governor’s spokesman, Colin Manning, would not say how Lynch felt about introducing same-sex civil unions in New Hampshire but would only say, “The governor supports strengthening families, and he’s going to be talking to lawmakers about that.”

…”I think John Lynch has made it clear that he wants equality for all New Hampshire citizens, but he cannot support marriage, or the word ‘marriage,’ ” for gay couples, said Rep. Jim Splaine, a Portsmouth Democrat who’s also a sponsor of the civil unions proposal.

Splaine said he would prefer that Lynch take a more public stance on the issue. “But I understand why he may not be on the forefront of this issue – yet. Society is slowly coming around to this, and there are still different opinions. It takes a lot for people to come around.”

In other words, Lynch refuses, in his role as governor, to lead. How about this Democrat running for cover protecting Lynch’s silence:

Rep. Bette Lasky, a Nashua Democrat, said Lynch’s silence was likely due to his focus on the education funding debate in recent weeks. “The last person I’m going to speak for is the governor, but I frankly think he’s had other things on his mind,” Lasky told a reporter yesterday. Then, before ending the conversation, she added, “But if you do hear anything about the governor’s opinion on this, give me a call.”

Yes, too busy to put out a press release. Right.

As you might imagine, the fundies have come out, including some outfit called the Home School Legal Defense Association (wtf does this have to do with home schooling your kids?!):

These bills are an attack on the traditional family, as well as an attack on the traditional interpretation of parental rights, on which the right to homeschool is based. Parental rights are derived from a number of sources, including “western civilization concepts of the family as a union of a man and a woman with broad parental authority over minor children.”

Related:
* Dem New Hampshire governor opposes marriage equality
* Civil unions: more on less
* Where the Dem presidential candidates are on civil unions
* New Hampshire Freedom to Marry Coalition

Hat tip, Herb.

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding

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