The New Hampshire senate has said no to recognizing gay marriages. Now the issue goes to the house of representatives.
Members of the house judiciary committee expected hundreds of people to turn out for a hearing Wednesday on legislation to block any legal recognition of same-sex unions performed in other states.
A group called New Hampshire Freedom to Marry organized a lunchtime rally outside the statehouse to make its views known. "New Hampshire Freedom to Marry believes that this law is inappropriate and unnecessary, mean-spirited, and will only continue to codify discrimination against gay and lesbian couples here in the Granite State," the group said in a statement.
Several legislators are expected to propose changing the legislation to call for creating a study committee instead. That study committee would review "all aspects of civil contracts entered into by couples contemplating a long-term commitment to each other," according to a proposed version of the measure.
The New Hampshire Christian Coalition supports the bill as written, arguing that recognizing gay marriage would "continue the eradication of this nation's fundamental traditions centered on the belief in God, country, and family," according to a letter to the state senate last month. The measure has already passed in the senate 16-7. A committee hearing before the senate in February drew more than 400 people.
The legislation comes on the heels of a Massachusetts supreme judicial court decision giving gay couples the right to marry. New Hampshire lawmakers fear the state would be required to honor those unions if couples moved to New Hampshire. New Hampshire's definition of marriage already limits it to unions between a man and a woman. Republican governor Craig Benson supports the bill, whose language is almost identical to that of the federal Defense of Marriage Act, passed by Congress in 1996.