Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Gay Marriage in New Hampshire

Today New Hampshire became the third state to use the legislative process to recognize same-sex unions as marriages. Governor Lynch signed the bill tonight after New Hampshire's state legislature approved changes designed to protect the rights of sectarian organizations which do not approve of such relationships. Vermont's legislature passed a bill recognizing same-sex marriages last month and then voted to overturn that governor's veto of such legislation. Maine' governor signed his state's gay marriage bill last month as well but that one might be put up to a vote before any marriages can be recognized.

New Hampshire's gay Americans will get to marry in January. The legislation specifically protects a religious organization's right to withhold its recognition of such unions thereby denying the conservative evangelicals one of their main claims - that their rights will be sacrificed at the altar of gay tolerance:

"No religious organization, association, or society, or any nonprofit institution or organization operated, supervised, or controlled by or in conjunction with a religious organization, association, or society, shall be required to participate in a ceremony solemnizing marriage in violation of the religious beliefs of such organization, association, or society."

To the Political Heretic this language wasn't needed. The First Amendment already protected their right to withhold support and recognition for gay couple. No harm, however, was done by adding that sentence and it may in the end have done us some good by clearly spelling that out. Either way it was needed to win the governor's signature.

One particular section of the statute, however, might be challenged in the court of law on sexual orientation -based and sex-based discrimination grounds. New Hampshire will, under the new law, recognize the marriages performed between younger teens but withhold such recognition for same-sex couples until a later date. (14 yr-old boys can marry 13-yr-old girls can marry but same-sex couples would have to wait until they are both 18 yrs old). A sex-based discrimination claim would note the smaller, perhaps almost minor disparity in age difference between the male who can marry (at 14 and the female who can marry at 13).

The Political Heretic does not believe we should challenge this legislation on either ground in the courts since it might invite unwarranted negative publicity if we were to push for gay marriages at an earlier age. Our opponents will disingenuously claim that we are "recruiting" their kids at an earlier age. An alternative approach would have us push for legislative revision that raises the age on heterosexual marriages. why people can marry at the age of 13 or 14 is anybody's guess.

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