Monday, March 26, 2007

Concord Ready to Bless Unions

It looks like New Hampshire will beat Rhode Island to the same-sex union party. Out of the six New England states -- key pace setters for independence and fairness, lo, several centuries ago, one offers same-sex marriage and two civil unions. Maine's voters and legislature have come down strongly for gay rights, Rhode Island is peeking under the clothes of SSM, and suddenly New Hampshire appears about to enable civil unions.

Let Texas and South Carolina sit in a homophobic pout.

Was it only a little over a years ago that a mean-spirited committee head railroaded the marriage-laws hearings? Next thing we hear, a flurry of gay-couple-friendly bills look like they have a shot.

Now both the Union-Leader and the Monitor report that the current civil unions bill looks like a winner. Fueling speculation was last week's passage of HB 51 to permit same-sex adoption. The votes for it were 12 to 7 in committee and 234 to 127 on the floor. The ayes included 24 of 161 Republicans.

Similarly, the House Judiciary Committee reported 15 to 5 favorably for HB 0437 to enable civil unions. There was a flavor of inevitability as well as lesser-of-two-evils at work, it seems. The Monitor quoted Exeter Republican Rep. Lee Quandt as, "I think the average citizen in this area does not want gay marriage. I also sense that they don't want to see gays discriminated against or ill treated in any way."

The senate should pass it after the house. However a wrinkle is that the senate may first consider a bill to let any couple, gay or straight, enter into a contract that would give them the same rights at the state level as married couples. Passage of that might lead to some serious arm wrestling in conference committee.

Regardless, some form of legal homosexual relationship should be the law in New Hampshire soon.

Well, maybe Rhode Island will jump right over civil unions and go for full marriage equality.

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