New Hampshire Recognizes That Human Rights Are For All Humans3 June, 2009
The governor of New Hampshire, John Lynch, finally, after a great deal of obstructionism, signed the bill passed by the New Hampshire legislature legalizing gay marriage. In other words, accepting the idea that marriage is a human right, that gays and lesbians are humans, and that they should be allowed to get married. And they came close to getting it right.
It was not simple, though. Governor Lynch tried to derail the process by insisting on extra protection for religious groups (from Boston.com) :
Lynch later demanded additional language to make it clear that churches and religious groups would not be forced to officiate at gay marriages or to provide services, facilities and goods of any kind to participants.
The Senate passed legislation to satisfy Lynch, but the House narrowly rejected it last week. The compromise reached Friday barely changes it.
The new version, which is expected to come up for a vote Wednesday, adds a sentence specifying that all religious organizations, associations or societies have exclusive control over their religious doctrines, policies, teachings and beliefs on marriage. It also clarifies that church-related organizations that serve charitable or educational purposes are exempt from having to provide insurance and other benefits to same sex spouses of employees. The earlier version said “charitable and educational” instead of “charitable or educational.”
How nice. He held up the civil rights for American citizens to ‘protect religion.’ Now religious charities and educational groups can discriminate. Correct me if I’m wrong here, but aren’t the right wing Christians always claiming that the gays want ‘special rights’? Isn’t a provision written into a bill to allow Christians to discriminate a special right?
The bill was signed this evening in a small ceremony (also from Boston.com):
“Today we’re standing up for the liberties of same-sex couples by making clear they will receive the same rights, responsibilities, and respect under New Hampshire law,” Governor John Lynch said before signing the legislation in a State House ceremony at about 5:20 p.m.
Lynch said it was a New Hampshire tradition “to come down on the side of individual liberties and protections, and that tradition continues today.” The room, filled by scores of the bill’s supporters, resounded with applause as he signed.
What galls me about this whole kabuki performance is that it is absolute nonsense. Lynch claimed, early on, that he wanted to make sure that churches would not be forced to perform services which disagreed with their teachings.
Folks, marriage is a civil function. It is possible to marry without any involvement from a church, priest, pastor, minister, or any other religious person, place or thing. (((Wife))) and I were married in her parent’s living room. The ceremony was performed by a Justice of the Peace with no mention of god(s). We exchanged rings before each other and before our families; not before any god(s).
Had we chosen, we could have been married in a church. The whole ceremony in a church, performed by a person of the cloth, would have been entirely superfluous. It would have made no difference at all regarding the legality of the marriage. What does the minister (or whatever) say? “By the authority vested in me by the state of (Whatever), I now pronounce you man and wife.” And then he (or she) signs the wedding licence issued by the state!
But states have a long history of granting special privileges to churches. In Florida, a church-based day care company can legally ignore most of the health and safety codes with which secular businesses must comply. Church dinners can, in many states, ignore health and safety codes when selling food as part of a church dinner. In Virginia, a religious company doesn’t have to pay unemployment insurance (which means their employees are shit-out-of-luck if they get laid off). So why not give them one more special privilege: the right to discriminate against people who are doing what is legal under state law.
So, kudos to New Hampshire. The governor, though, by granting special privileges to an already privileged group, just feeds the churches’ sense of entitlement. And I’d bet dollars to donuts that they will be back for more.