NH Governor Backs Same-Sex “Marriage” Legislation

But first requires new language to protect religious institutions
Fri May 15, 2009 - 12:15 pm EST

By Patrick B. Craine

CONCORD, NH, May 15, 2009 ( - New Hampshire Gov. John Lynch agreed Thursday to sign a bill that redefines marriage to include same-sex couples, provided the legislation is amended to better protect the rights of religious institutions.

Gov. Lynch has repeatedly stated that he personally opposes same-sex "marriage," but in his statement released on Thursday, he says he has chosen to take a "broader" perspective.

"My personal views on the subject of marriage have been shaped by my own experience, tradition and upbringing," said the governor. "But as Governor of New Hampshire, I recognize that I have a responsibility to consider this issue through a broader lens."

New Hampshire became the fourth state to recognize the civil union of homosexuals two years ago when Gov. Lynch signed a bill granting homosexual unions the same state rights as marriages.

The current legislation was passed in the House on March 26 by a vote of 186-179 and was then approved by the Senate in a 13-11 vote on April 29.  The legislation was then passed on to Gov. Lynch for approval or veto.

In his statement, Gov. Lynch affirms the weight of this redefinition, saying: "At its core, HB 436 simply changes the term ‘civil union’ to ‘civil marriage.’ Given the cultural, historical and religious significance of the word marriage, this is a meaningful change." 

The governor says he has heard and understood "the concerns of … citizens who have … deep feelings and genuine religious beliefs about marriage."  But, he says, "New Hampshire’s great tradition has always been to come down on the side of individual liberties and protections."

According to Gov. Lynch, however, the proposed legislation does not adequately protect the religious liberty of those whose faiths do not allow them to support homosexual unions.  Thus he has proposed "new language [that] will provide the strongest and clearest protections for religious institutions and associations, and for the individuals working with such institutions." 

Lynch’s proposed language would protect the rights of religious institutions and those who work with them to choose not to participate in the various activities that would surround the celebration of a same-sex "marriage," not merely the ceremony itself.  This language, he says, "will make clear that [religious institutions] cannot be forced to act in ways that violate their deeply held religious principles."

"If the legislature passes this language," says Lynch, "I will sign the same-sex marriage bill into law. If the legislature doesn’t pass these provisions, I will veto it."

Mo Baxley, executive director of the Freedom to Marry Coalition, has supported Gov. Lynch’s proposed amendments, saying, "This is language we can support."

But same-sex "marriage" opponent Kevin Smith, executive director of Cornerstone Policy Research, is critical of Lynch’s apparent about-face.  According to Smith the governor is using a "smoke screen-religious-liberty-amendment cover to change his mind."  Smith says, "[This] seems like a rather disingenuous attempt on the part of the governor to try and couch his actions today and say it’s some sort of compromise. It isn’t."

Should he sign the bill, Gov. Lynch would make New Hampshire the sixth U.S. state to legalize same-sex "marriage."

Governor John Lynch’s statement:

See related coverage:

South Carolina Bans Same-sex "Marriage", New Hampshire Moves toward Civil Unions

New Hampshire Passes Homosexual Civil Unions Bill

Key State - New Hampshire - Okays Same-Sex Unions

New Hampshire House OKs Same-Sex "Marriage" Bill

New Hampshire Senate Approves Same-Sex "Marriage"

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