New Hampshire plays catch up

New Hampshire has caught up with most of New England by passing a bill to allow same-sex marriage.

New Hampshire became the sixth state to legalize gay marriage after the Senate and House passed key language on religious rights and Gov. John Lynch — who personally opposes gay marriage — signed the legislation Wednesday afternoon.

I’ve had discussions with people who claim Lynch is acting out of political pressure. I don’t see evidence for that. It’s certainly a possibility, but the man is hugely popular and won by landslides in his last two elections. At the very least, it seems just as likely that he was caving to political pressure when he initially said he was against same-sex marriage. In fact, why not more? He had more to gain then than he stands to lose now.

Lynch, a Democrat, had promised a veto if the law didn’t clearly spell out that churches and religious groups would not be forced to officiate at gay marriages or provide other services. Legislators made the changes.

The revised bill added a sentence specifying that all religious organizations, associations or societies have exclusive control over their religious doctrines, policies, teachings and beliefs on marriage.

I believe this is correct. Morally, it isn’t, of course. It’s bankrupt in that sense. However, in a legal sense – and this is a legal issue – religions are protected by the First Amendment in this regard. Time may very well conclude that they are not, but it would appear that they are afforded these protections right now. Of course, the KKK is afforded First Amendment protections.

It also clarified 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.

This, however, is not constitutional. This moves from the realm of protecting religious beliefs to harming people. If a religious organization hires a married homosexual, it is not germane to their beliefs to deny insurance. We’re talking about secular legal and tax issues, not religion at this point. New Hampshire went to far here. They are allowing religion to trump individual rights.

On the up side, discrimination has been significantly lessened in New England over the past few months.