A Step Forward and a Step Back for Same Sex Marriage

Jan 25, 2012 2:37pm

Supporters of same-sex marriage made headway in one state and lost ground in another this week. New Hampshire has legalized same-sex marriage but is considering a law to protect business owners who refuse to serve gay couples. And a contender for U.S. Senate in Massachusetts contributed to a project for gay teens this week.

The battle over laws supporting same-sex couples and whether they should be able to marry continues to play out on the local level. Every GOP presidential candidate but Ron Paul supports a constitutional amendment to ban such marriages even in the six states where they’re already legal. President Obama doesn’t support a constitutional amendment, but opposes gay marriage, although he has said his view is “evolving.”

Here is a closer look at what happened in the states:

Washington State Poised to Legalize Same-Sex Marriage

Washington State Sen. Mary Margaret Haugen has come out in support of allowing gay couples to marry, tipping the scales in the favor of same-sex marriage supporters, the Associated Press reported Monday. The Washington Senate is considering the issue this week.

Gov. Chris Gregoire has said she favors a plan to legalize gay marriage, an announcement that triggered the ire of the Stand for Marriage spokesman in Washington.

“She might as well change her name to Joan Wilkes Booth,” Pastor Ken Hutcherson of the Antioch Bible Church of Kirkland said of the governor, ”because what she’s doing now is trying to put a bullet in the head of one of the greatest traditions that has ever existed and has built our society, and that is marriage between one man and one woman.”

Six states and Washington, D.C. allow same-sex couples to marry already.

New Jersey Has the Votes, Too , but Christie Threatens Veto

Lawmakers in New Jersey claimed earlier that they, too, had enough support to pass a recently revived bill to legalize same-sex marriage. But N.J. Gov. Chris Christie promised Tuesday that he would veto such a bill if it passed the Legislature, throwing a wrench in Democrats’ plans.

While Democrats push ahead with the measure, the AP reported, Christie instead recommends a referendum, putting the issue to a popular vote.

“Whether or not to redefine hundreds of years of societal and religious traditions should not be decided by 121 people in the statehouse,” Christie said. “Let the people of New Jersey decide what is right for the state.”

Proponents of gay marriage in New Jersey counter that the issue is a matter of civil rights, making it the legislature’s responsibility,  according to the New York Times.

New Hampshire House Considers Bill Allowing Businesses to Refuse Gay Couples

New Hampshire has moved on from its role in the GOP presidential primary and politicians there are in the process of considering a bill that could limit the number of businesses open to same-sex couples in the state.

The New Hampshire House Judiciary Committee Tuesday discussed the merits and dangers of the Freedom of Religion and Conscience in Marriage bill. The legislation would enable business owners to turn away customers based on their sexual orientation in the matter of wedding-related services and goods without fear of a lawsuit if providing such services would go against their “conscience or religious faith.”

The proposed legislation has caused  a stir on Twitter, where one Hearst reporter tweeted, “Live free, but not gay: NH bill allows people to refuse service to gays, civil lawsuits would be barred…”

Harrell Kirstein, press secretary for the New Hampshire Democratic Party, tweeted that the “bill would legalize discrimination against LGBT, interracial & interfaith couples in #NH.”

Republican State Rep. Frank Sapareto, who co-sponsored the bill, told New Hampshire’s Eagle Tribune, “We are concerned about clergy having to provide ceremonies against their belief.”

Same-sex marriage is legal in New Hampshire, but the state has legislation protecting religious leaders and churches from being forced to officiate such services.

Sapareto told the Eagle Tribune he believed the state should protect businesses from lawsuits over refusal to provide these services.

Elizabeth Warren Releases Video as Part of Campaign to Support LGBT Youth

Next door to New Hampshire, the Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate in Massachusetts posted an “It Gets Better” video in honor of No Name-Calling Week.  Elizabeth Warren is hosting it on a designated section of her campaign website.

In the video, Warren recounts her time as a teacher, witnessing bullying in the schoolyard. She assures viewers that they are not alone and encourages them to call the Trevor Project “if it feels too hard.” The Trevor Project is a suicide-prevention line aimed at supporting “lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning youth.”

Warren does not clarify her stance on gay marriage in the video. Instead, she says, “There are a lot of different people out there in this world and a lot of people who celebrate those differences. That’s what makes us strong. That’s what makes us exciting. So hang in there. It gets better.”

Relationship and sex advice columnist Dan Savage started the It Gets Better project with his partner in 2010 after several gay teens committed suicide in a short period of time. Lawmakers from New Jersey made headlines in October when three congressional representatives became the first Republican elected officials to submit a video shout-out to the project.

Warren’s opponent, incumbent Scott Brown, refused to participate in an It Gets Better ad campaign last year, which adds a political element to Warren’s release.

Amy Bingham and Z. Byron Wolf contributed to this report.

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