Thursday, May 21, 2009

Marriage Stalled

Sometimes, progress hits a pothole. Or, in the case of my native New Hampshire, a frost heave.
It could have been a glorious, victorious, triumphant day in Concord. My partner and I, who are on a brief visit here, could have been at the state Capitol for a 5pm bill signing with Governor John Lynch and witnessed New Hampshire becoming the sixth state in the country to approve same-sex marriage.
But the bill is limbo... also known as going to a conference committee between the House and Senate.
Here's apparently what happened.
You may remember that NH's legislature passed the marriage measure a few weeks ago. Up to that point, Gov. Lynch hadn't said much of anything. Once the bill was really going to be on its way to his desk, the Governor suddenly remembered, "Oh, yeah: before you give that to me, you better make extra-double-triple sure that it protects religious institutions and their employees from lawsuits if they refuse to marry a lesbian or gay couple." Fortunately, the bill had not actually left the Senate to head to the Governor, and after working out some comfort language for Lynch, the chamber passed the newly-amended bill.
Then it was time to take it up in the House... a 400-member body of pure New Hampshire Yankeeism. And this is when the same-sex marriage car ran over a frost heave.
Some members, including a gay Republican Rep.Steve Vaillancourt of Manchester, switched their votes from the last time, and the measure failed on 188-186 vote. Mind you, this wasn't about evil, nasty, horrible, frightening gay people... the type of talk you might expect to hear out of a legislature such as Florida's. No, the reason for some of the key vote switches was... "How dare the governor demand we make changes to this bill! He has some nerve speaking up now, and we aren't gonna let him jerk us around!" (This is not a direct quote, but a paraphrase of what was being said).
In other words, it was good ol' fashioned New Hampshire stubborn bull headedness that bumped the bill off its path to the Governor.
Vaillancourt was quoted on New Hampshire Public Radio this morning, mouthing off about the "homophobic" Governor who was making them amend the bill to protect religious groups. And while I agree this amendment seems completely unnecessary, and is a creation of Roman Catholic guilt on the Governor's part, the fact is that had Vaillancourt and others NOT switched their votes, gay marriage would have been signed into law at 5pm yesterday. Instead, it will linger in conference... and supporters can only hope that it will come back when everyone's hot heads have cooled off. And some Roman Catholic lawmakers might consider going to the confessional at their local church rather than being on the floor at the time of the vote.
New Hampshire. I love it... even when it makes me crazy.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I heard the whole story here after you had been waiting to talk to +Gene Robinson who was really overwhelmed by the fact that the House had been so "Yankee". Only in NH....