N.H. 'gay marriage' bill not on gov's desk
CONCORD, N.H. (BP)--It's been five days since it passed the legislature, but a bill legalizing "gay marriage" in New Hampshire still hasn't officially made it to the desk of Gov. John Lynch, whose office phone reportedly is still ringing nearly non-stop.
The bill, H.B. 436, passed the state House by a vote of 178-167 May 6, completing the final major step in the Democratic legislature's effort to redefine marriage to include homosexual couples. It already had passed the Senate. The bill, though, as of mid-day Monday had yet to be enrolled, which is a mere formality that involves the bill being signed by legislative leaders and the secretary of state before being sent to the governor's office.
Once Lynch, a Democrat, has the bill, he has five days either to sign it, veto it or let it become law without his signature. Neither chamber appears to have the votes to override a veto. If Lynch signs it, New Hampshire would become the fifth state to legalize "gay marriage," although one of those states, Maine, is facing a citizen petition drive to overturn that state's law.
"It's anyone's guess as to why it's being delayed the way it is," Kevin Smith, executive director of the New Hampshire-based Cornerstone Policy Research, which is lobbying for a veto, told Baptist Press.
Smith sent out an e-mail Monday urging constituents to continue calling (603-271-2121) or e-mailing Lynch and asking him to veto it. Calls from opponents are particularly important because the bill's supporters are conducting phone banks, Smith said.
Lynch repeatedly has said in the past he believes marriage is between a man and a woman, doing so as late as April. Cornerstone Policy's legislative action arm and the National Organization for Marriage are running television ads showing Lynch's past statements and asking him to stick to his word.
"Keep the pressure on him," Smith said.
Smith theorizes that the bill is being delayed because Lynch himself has asked for more time to consider the issue.
Opponents warn that the bill, if signed, will lead to violations of parental rights and religious liberties, including public schools teaching that "gay marriage" is as normal as traditional marriage.
Meanwhile, in Hawaii, supporters of a civil unions bill succeeded May 6 in pulling the proposal from committee and bringing it to the floor, only to see it die minutes later.
The Hawaii bill would have granted homosexual couples all the legal benefits of marriage, minus the name, but deadlocked at 3-3 in a Senate committee in February. Supporters tried but failed to pull it from committee during a floor vote in March, but finally succeeded May 6 when 10 senators -- one more than needed -- agreed to bring the proposal to the floor. (At least one-third of the Senate was needed for the move to succeed.) But minutes later an amendment to the bill passed, 16-9, killing the bill for this year because the session ended the next day and there was not enough time for the amended bill to pass in the Senate and then in the House.
The bill appeared headed toward passage earlier this year -- legislative leaders said it had majority support -- until a crowd of 8,000-12,000 red-clad opponents, mostly Christians, rallied against the bill at the state capital.
The amendment would have broadened the bill to apply to heterosexual couples and not just homosexual couples. Opponents, once again dressed in red, again flooded the Senate gallery May 6, although supporters of the bill, dressed in white, showed up in large numbers, too.
The amendment was a major victory for conservatives, because it not only killed the bill but also moved the next round for its consideration to 2010, an election year when legislators may feel even more pressure not to consider it.
Rick Lazor, pastor of OlaNui Church, a Southern Baptist congregation in Hawaii, told Baptist Press the bill simply is "a stepping stone" to "gay marriage," as has been the case in Connecticut, Vermont and perhaps now New Hampshire, all of which legalized civil unions. "Gay marriage" is now legal in Connecticut and Vermont, although Vermont's law doesn't go into effect until September.