N.H. Republican to introduce civil unions measure

Posted on 08 Feb 2007 at 8:30pm
By Norma Love Associated Pres

Conservative says bill allowing “‘contractual cohabitation’ agreements not just for gays

CONCORD, N.H. Former Senate Republican Leader Bob Clegg told The Associated Press on Feb. 1 he will introduce legislation giving gays and other adults who don’t choose to marry the same legal rights as married couples.

Clegg, a conservative senator from Hudson, said all adults would be able to enter into “contractual cohabitation” agreements and receive the legal benefits married couples have in the state. Clegg was majority leader when Republicans controlled the Senate last session.

“Marriage is a religious ceremony,” said Clegg. “The bill is not just for gays and lesbians; it’s for anybody.”

Under his bill, two adults could go to a Justice of the Peace and affirm their decision to enter into a contract. The contract would be filed with the Secretary of State as are marriage licenses. Dissolving the unions would be similar to a divorce with the parties responsible financially for dependent children.

People could not enter into contracts with their parent, grandparent, child or grandchild. They also could not enter into a contract with two people at the same time.

Employers would still have the option of recognizing the contract for health insurance and pension purposes, said Clegg.

Clegg released his bill to the Associated Press while a hearing was in progress one floor up in the Statehouse on a proposed amendment to ban gay marriage.

“I don’t believe we need to amend the constitution,” he said.

Clegg said he wasn’t sure he opposes gay marriage, but he wasn’t ready to approve it either. Other lawmakers plan to offer legislation allowing gays to enter into civil unions. Clegg said his bill would not only apply to gays and thus would not be civil union legislation.

“People want the same rights given any other couple,” he said. “This is my answer.”

Meanwhile, about 50 people attended a House hearing on whether to amend the constitution to limit marriage to a union between one woman and one man.

Critics argued it would enshrine discrimination in New Hampshire’s constitution.

But supporters testified their Christian rights were at risk if gay marriage isn’t stopped.

State Rep. Dudley Dumaine, the prime sponsor, said it also would prohibit civil unions.

“I don’t understand the pressing need to write discrimination into the constitution,” said Susan Bruce of Jackson. “Are there marauding bands of homosexuals harassing heterosexual couples until they divorce? I don’t think so.”

Rep. Carol Estes, D-Plymouth, likened the amendment to measures that barred blacks and whites from marrying which meant she could not have married the man she loved.

“The rights of the minority must be respected,” she said.

But Helen McPhillips of Danville said God set the pattern for marriage as only between a man and a woman. She said allowing gays to marry would result in profound changes in society.

“Two mommies and two daddies isn’t going to work,” she said.

“We’re talking about a radical, radical redefinition of what marriage might be in New Hampshire,” added Rep. Daniel Itse, a bill sponsor.

John Keck of Bedford said marriage should be supported as an institution because men and women procreate.

“Why mess with the wisdom of nature,” he said.

The issue drew the attention of possible presidential candidate Jim Gilmore, the former governor of Virginia. Gilmore joined about 15 people outside the Statehouse before the hearing who support the ban.

The House killed a similar proposal last year.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition February 9, 2007

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