Friday, May 29, 2009

Compromise reached on New Hampshire gay marriage bill

05/29/09 AP (source: ADF Alliance Alert):

CONCORD, N.H.—House and Senate negotiators on Friday agreed to add one sentence and change one word in a bill [HB75] that will determine whether the state allows gay marriage ... The new version, which is expected to come up for a vote Wednesday, adds a sentence specifying that all religious organizations, associations or societies have exclusive control over their religious doctrines, policies, teachings and beliefs on marriage. It also clarifies that church-related organizations that serve charitable or educational purposes are exempt from having to provide insurance and other benefits to same sex spouses of employees. The earlier version said "charitable and educational" instead of "charitable or educational."

On May 18th, Republican members of the Senate Judiciary Committee had proposed an amendment to exempt individual religious-conscience objectors in the wedding business - a more limited version of a proposal that several religious-liberty scholars recommended to New Hampshire Governor John Lynch (here and here), and to officials in Connecticut and New York. AP reports that among other amendments proposed today, Sen. Sheila Roberge, R-Bedford, proposed to exempt "individuals [who] decline to provide wedding services if doing so would violate their "consciences or sincerely held religious beliefs." All of her amendments were defeated. Why did negotiators reject the amendment to exempt religious individuals in the wedding trade? They appeared to fear a slippery slope that would lead to other forms of discrimination:

"Hypothetically, if I'm a Nazi -- which I'm not -- and I felt white supremacy should take place, do I now get an exemption because my conscience says if you're not blond and blue-eyed, I can discriminate against you?" asked Rep. Anthony DiFruscia, R-Windham.

06/01/09 update

(source: ADF Alliance Alert):

Sen. Sheila Roberge, R-Bedford, tried without success to convince negotiators to let any private individual or business could decline to participate in same-sex marriages due to their “conscience or sincerely held religious beliefs.”

Sen. Bette Lasky, D-Nashua, said this protection would go too far and run afoul of the state’s existing anti-discrimination laws.

06/02/09 update

Baptist Press (source: ADF Alliance Alert):

"The New Hampshire governor is right to recognize the threat to religious liberty posed by same-sex marriage, but he underestimates the threat by a long shot," Austin R. Nimocks, an attorney with the legal organization Alliance Defense Fund, told Baptist Press. "The protections he proposes do not cover business owners and individuals with religious objections to same-sex marriage, and these are exactly the kind of cases that the Alliance Defense Fund is having to defend."

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