Thursday, May 21, 2009
The Continuing SSM / Religious Liberty Debate in New Hampshire
After the New Hampshire House narrowly refused yesterday to pass a same-sex marriage bill with reasonable religious-liberty protections demanded by Democratic governor John Lynch, there now appear to be negotiations to return to the issue. New Hampshire seems likely to pass SSM sometime soon; the question is whether it will act as a decent model for allowing religious traditionalists to follow their conscience as well. As background on the issues, here is the letter that Robin Wilson, Carl Esbeck, Rick, and I wrote to the governor on May 1. [UPDATE: Here too is the letter that Professor Doug Laycock wrote to the governor on April 30 supporting same-sex marriage but also strong religious exemptions.]
The original New Hampshire bill had a wholly inadequate provision protecting only clergy from actually having to solemnize a marriage. The governor's proposal would, among other good things, protect other religious organizations and their employees, and in contexts beyond the marriage ceremony itself that involve "promotion" of a marriage: for example, a religious college objecting to including same-sex couples in married-student housing. The governor's proposal is not perfect; it wouldn't (as we argued should happen) protect individuals in small commercial businesses, like wedding photographers, who personally, directly participate in a marriage ceremony. But Gov. Lynch nevertheless deserves credit and support for standing up for protecting the deep beliefs and identities of both groups, traditionalist objectors as well as gay couples.