Some insiders suggest governor asked lawmakers to delay approval
to let him get budget measures signed first and avoid controversy
The lights were all green as New Hampshire’s civil union bill raced through the house and headed to a final vote on the senate floor scheduled for April 18.
But as Tom Fahey, State House bureau chief for the Union Leader wrote Sunday, April 15, “the bullet trainwent off the rails” when Senate President Sylvia Larson delayed the vote in order to give the 24 senators more time to consider the issue.
The bill, which provides same-sex couples with all the state benefits of marriage, will elevate New Hampshire into the top tier of gay-friendly states. Beyond Massachusetts where marriage is legal, only Vermont, Connecticut, New Jersey and California provide couples’ rights on par with legal marriage.
And despite the speed bump on Friday, April 13, State House insiders expect the bill to pass, and Gov. John Lynch told the Associated Press on Thursday, April 19, he will sign the measure.
Lynch, a Democrat, has not taken a position on the civil union bill, and he is not a supporter of same-sex marriage. Indeed, observers suggested in the press that the delay in sending the bill to the senate came at the governor’s instigation, since none of the senators expressed the slightest need for “more time” to consider one of the most high profile bills in the six-month session.
Civil unions passed the house on April 4 by a 243-129 margin, and eased passed the senate judiciary committee 3-2 on Thursday, April 12. Supporters count at least 14 votes in the senate, enough for a two-vote victory.
In fact, inside sources do believe the governor had a hand in stalling the Senate vote, but the speculation is that Lynch hopes to sign some of the major budget bills before he takes the media heat for signing civil unions. He also has the option of letting civil unions become law without his signature.
Both houses of the New Hampshire legislature traded bills at the midpoint of the session on April 11, setting the stage for final votes on some measures.
Unlike other states, New Hampshire does not pass bills repeatedly back and forth between the two chambers. Included in the bills that arrived on the Senate agenda, were the main appropriations and revenue bills, which may be allowed to leapfrog civil unions.
According to Fahey’s report, however, supporters don’t expect the civil union vote to be delayed for more than a week or two.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition, April 20, 2007.