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Yesterday, Gov. Lynch of New Hampshire stated that he would sign the same-sex marriage bill—but only if the legislature adds some stuff to it explicitly saying that religious groups that want to discriminate can continue to do so.

(Lynch did not, of course, put it like that. I'm showing my bias.)

He said that if those things are not added to the bill, he'll veto, and the legislature does not appear to have the votes to override.

The reaction from many forum commenters was "Is this good news?" The answer, imo, is that it's qualified very good news.

NH legislative leadership and various pro-gay organizations agree that the changes are fine, and they'll work hard to make sure the changes go through. The changes are mostly and essentially explicit statements of rights that churches already have.

However, there are two places where I've seen resistance to the changes:

  • Some liberal commenters on some forums (such as Pam's House Blend) are outraged at what they see as an attempt to water down same-sex marriage. They're especially concerned about the ambiguous phrase "promotion of marriage" in Lynch's proposed language, claiming that it opens the door to legal discrimination far beyond what's currently allowed.
  • One Republican state Representative who voted for the bill apparently says he'll now vote against the changes (search in that page for the comment from Steve Vaillancourt), on the grounds that Gov. Lynch (who's a Democrat) is trying "to be on both sides of an issue at once," something the Governor's detractors have been accusing of him a fair bit lately.

I understand the concern about increasing discrimination, but I can't go along with the notion that it's better to scrap same-sex marriage in NH entirely than to adopt these changes. I doubt that the changes will have much effect, if any (the concerns about the "promotion of marriage" phrase are speculative—nobody knows for certain exactly what that phrase will be interpreted to mean in the future); and if the changes do increase discrimination to unconstitutionally broad levels, then they can be challenged in court later. The changes leave us with at least 99% of what we want; I can't support instead choosing 0% of what we want on the grounds that it has to be 100% or nothing.

As for Rep. Vaillancourt, it sounds to me like he's trying to score political points—but as a commenter at Blue Hampshire notes, the bill might have passed even with no Republican support, so I'm hoping the amendments can too.

There are other dangers, of course; in particular, NOM and its ilk are presumably doing their best to get lawmakers to say no to the amendments, and a couple of the previous votes in NH have been pretty close.

However, it sounds to me like the NH leadership is doing the right things to get this done. So, fingers crossed.

NH state Rep. Jim Splaine continues to be closely involved in the process, and continues to be a great source of info. Yesterday, he posted at Blue Hampshire about what happens next (short version: starting next Tuesday, the NH House and Senate will attempt to amend an otherwise unrelated bill about marriage to cover the Governor's amendments, and then if that passes will send all the marriage bills to the Governor's desk), and he also posted an insider's view of the process so far, including a meeting with the Governor about the proposed new language.

I'm going to ask him if there's anything us out-of-staters can do at this point; will report back. For now, if you live in New Hampshire, please contact your state Senators and Representatives and ask them to vote for the amendments. Especially Senators—the last vote was much closer in the Senate than in the House. And if you know someone who lives in NH, ask them to contact their legislators.

The best sources of news and info about this that I've seen continue to be Blue Hampshire (where Rep. Splaine appears to be a regular poster) and tacithydra's LJ, which has a NH update with some more info.

I'll leave you with an entertaining video about what might happen if same-sex marriage were legal:

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