New Hampshire bill would protect Christian wedding vendors from gay ‘marriage’ lawsuits
CONCORD, January 30, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) - A bill that would protect Christian wedding vendors from being forced to provide their services to homosexual couples is making its way through the New Hampshire legislature.
Although the “business protection bill” was prompted by the legalization of gay “marriage,” in New Hampshire, the legislation does not specifically reference homosexual couples. Instead, it allows business owners to turn away customers on the basis of “conscience or religious faith.”
If passed, the bill would protect New Hampshire residents from the kind of lawsuits that have been filed in other parts of the country against business owners who did not want to participate in gay “wedding” ceremonies.
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Opponents of the measure have complained that the bill’s language is so broad that it would legalize discrimination against inter-racial couples as well.
“There are some religions that still believe that African-Americans and Caucasians shouldn’t be able to marry. They would be allowed to discriminate against them under this bill,” New Hampshire Civil Liberties Union Executive Director Claire Ebel told the Associated Press.
State Rep. Cynthia Chase called the bill “codified discrimination” during a hearing in the House last week.
But Rep. Frank Sapareto, who introduced the measure, says that it’s about protecting religious freedom.
“We’re certainly taking people’s freedoms away as we make more and more laws that force them to provide occupation or services that violate their beliefs,” he told WBZ-TV. “I, as a business man, have a right to do business with who I want to.”
The bill comes at a timely moment for the gay “marriage” issue in New Hampshire, as efforts to repeal the gay “marriage” bill have stalled in the legislature.
A repeal bill was expected to come up for a vote earlier this month, before Republican House leaders abruptly announced that the vote had been pushed to February.
“We must deal with some critical financial and economic-related legislation first, as well as legislative redistricting, prior to any discussion of gay marriage,” wrote House Majority Leader D.J. Bettencourt in an email reported on by the Eagle Tribune. “It’s critical to keep legislative priorities in their proper order.”
The New Hampshire House of Representatives voted down a repeal attempt last year, and Democratic Governor John Lynch has pledged to veto any repeal that does pass.