New Hampshire Senate Votes to Legalize Gay Marriage
April 29, 2009
The Democratic controlled New Hampshire Senate passed an amended version of the controversial measure to legalize gay marriage today. The vote was 13-11 in favor of the measure.
The House passed a similar measure last month by a 186-179 vote. The two chambers must reconcile small changes between the two measures in a conference committee but this is seen as a technicality. Democratic Gov. John Lynch must decide whether he will sign or veto the bill or allow it to become law without his signature. Lynch has been silent on the matter, though he has stated in the past that he opposes same-sex marriage.
In passing the bill, the Senate rejected the recommendation of a key legislative committee, which last week voted to kill the bill.
But undecided Democratic Senators secured concessions in the form of amendments in return for their commitments to vote in favor the bill during private meetings on Tuesday night. The key amendment would allow churches to refuse to conduct a same-sex marriage.
All state civil unions will become gay marriages in January of 2010.
Passage of the bill is seen as a major legislative victory for Democratic State Chairman Ray Buckley who lobbied aggressively for the measure during closed-door meetings over the past twenty-four hours.
The debate in the Senate was somewhat lopsided in that Republican Senators made a curious strategic decision on Tuesday night to say as little about the controversial measure as possible in order to, according to Republican Senate Leader Peter Bragdon, “preserve some decorum” and were not included in negotiations about the amendments.
Senators were subjected to a blizzard of lobbying from gay rights groups in the days leading up to today’s vote.
Lobbying efforts focused on a small handful of Democratic lawmakers who were seen as on the fence, including Senate President Sylvia Larson and Sens. Lou D’Allesandro, Betsy DeVries and Deb Reynolds. All but D’Allesandro voted in favor of the bill.
Sen. Reynolds may face criticism from conservative and Republican circles, as she voted to kill the measure in the committee and switched her vote on the Senate floor.
Sen. DeVries told constituents this weekend in voice mail recordings that she would vote against it, but she voted for it.
Every Republican member of the state Senate voted against the bill.
The measure capped off a morning of controversial decisions in the Senate. In other activity, the chamber voted to legalize the use of medical marijuana and voted against a transgendered rights bill.