The New Hampshire House Judiciary Committee opted Tuesday to replace legal same-sex marriages in the state with watered-down civil unions. The Republican-controlled panel voted 11-6 to undo the state’s 15-month-old marriage equality law, under which 1,500 gay couples have wed.
Curiously, the panel decided not to reinstate the civil union provision in place prior to the 2009 legalization of same-sex marriage; that law gave gay couples all of the rights and benefits of marriage without actually calling the unions “marriages.” The proposed civil unions bill, in contrast, is a diluted version bestowing fewer rights. Any two adults, including close relatives, would be eligible for a civil union under the new bill; anyone would be allowed to discriminate against those in civil unions based on their personal moral beliefs in employment, housing and public accommodations.
Complicating matters is the continuing recognition of legally married same-sex couples. Their marriages would remain valid under the proposed civil unions bill while it simultaneously prohibits further marriages from taking place—effectively creating different classes of married couples, much like the enactment of Proposition 8 did in California. “That creates a legal nightmare,” said Claire Ebel of the New Hampshire Civil Liberties Union, as quoted in the Boston Globe.
The bill’s sponsors, State Rep. David Bates and State Rep. Gregory Sorg, justified the move by insisting, fatuously, that “children can only be conceived naturally through copulation by heterosexual couples.” New Hampshire bears an interest in “promoting stable and committed marital unions between opposite-sex couples so as to increase the likelihood that children will be born to and raised by both of their natural parents,” the Globe quoted the bill as saying.
Marriage equality advocates don’t believe the bill has a chance of becoming law. Even if the bill makes it through the Republican-controlled legislature, the Democratic Governor, John Lynch, has promised to veto it. Lynch signed both the original civil unions bill and the marriage equality bill into law.
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