New Hampshire gay-marriage bill may get tangled up in senate

Tue Apr 14, 2009 2:39pm EDT
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By Andrew J. Manuse

MANCHESTER, New Hampshire (Reuters) - A bill to legalize same-sex marriage in New Hampshire may get tangled up in the state Senate, lawmakers said, potentially slowing momentum of the nation's gay-marriage movement after recent victories.

New Hampshire's Senate Judiciary Committee holds a public hearing on the bill on Wednesday ahead of a full senate vote expected this month or early in May.

Debate over the bill in the 190-year-old gold-domed State House in Concord puts the "Granite State" at the center of America's culture wars after a week in which the number of states allowing same-sex marriage doubled from two to four.

Several senators in the Democrat-controlled legislature contacted by Reuters speculated the bill would face defeat, citing Democratic Governor John Lynch's opposition, or be tabled indefinitely so lawmakers can avoid taking a stance on the issue ahead of elections next year.

After the hearing, the Senate Judicial Committee votes on the bill by early next week, said Senate Majority Leader Margaret Hassan, a Democrat. The full 24-member Senate votes between April 22 and the first week of May, she added.

"Obviously the governor's views are always important to legislators," Hassan said. "I'm not going to speculate on the bill's chances. The senators are really working hard to be thoughtful about this and to make sure the public has an opportunity to be heard."

The governor last year signed into law a bill recognizing same-sex civil unions. He has not said he will veto the gay-marriage bill, which would redefine marriage to include same-sex couples, but his opposition is clear.

"The governor hasn't supported same-sex marriage, but the civil unions bill he signed into law provides the same protections for all New Hampshire families," said the governor's spokesman, Colin Manning.   Continued...