Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Gay Union Buffet in N.H.

From the outside, a wealth of choices seems to overwhelm New Hampshire legislators, possibly leading to passage of one or two gay-positive bills. The three that are up for discussion starting today, would be huge advances in a state traditionally hostile to both gay rights and marriage equality.

Numerous versions of bills for same-sex marriage, civil (spousal) unions, and recognizing out-of-state legal unions and marriages are in the hopper. This is beginning to look like the family sitting down in front of cable TV with remote in hand. They don't ask is there anything worth watching, rather what's the best thing on now?

This is encouraging. Perhaps other states, at least in the Northeast and West Coast, can replicate this process and its choices.

The first one up is recognizing SSM and civil unions from elsewhere -- other states and countries. With over two centuries of comity, honoring other Colonies' and then other states' laws, New Hampshire should and may well edge ahead of Rhode Island on this one.

In a pleasant surprise, many lawmakers think that spousal unions have a good shot this session. Surely that must relate to having full SSM marriage in the wings with another bill. While the chief sponsor of full SSM, Rep. Maureen Baxley, disdains any union version as inferior, her bill could be the impetus for quick passage of spousal unions, as a more palatable alternative for squeamish lawmakers.

According to today's Concord Monitor, there are likely not enough votes for SSM but could well be for unions.
Certainly, civil unions have a better chance than anything having to do with marriage," said Rep. Fran Potter, a Concord Democrat and member of the House Judiciary Committee.

As for civil unions, "I think most Democrats believe this is a matter of civil rights, and there's every reason why gay and lesbian couples should have the same rights in committed relationships as straight folks," Potter said. "That's certainly my view."
The state seems to have emerged from the anti-gay cave favored by some of the older Republican legislators. The debates may well have moved to disputes of methods. The incrementalists are eager to jump to the unions mode and aim at full marriage equality down the road. The equality people want simple civil rights with no qualifiers.

The anti folk may have to sit in their caves by themselves. On the other hand, they may be reduced to attempting mean-spirited legislative prophylaxis as they have in New Jersey -- putting one-man/one-woman marriage limits in low to block full marriage equality later.

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