The New Hampshire House approved a marriage-equality bill by a slim margin last week, and the Senate will next consider the legislation.
The House took its first vote March 26 and the legislation failed by one vote, but the bill’s supporters quickly lobbied other legislators and took another vote later that day, which passed 186-179.
The future of the bill in the Senate remains unclear.
Democratic Senate President Sylvia Larsen said legislators are concentrating on the economic crisis at the moment and she did not want to speculate about how the Senate would fall on the issue of same-sex marriage.
“Our main focus must remain on the state budget and on revitalizing our economy,” Larsen said. “I cannot say what the final position of the Senate will be” on the marriage-equality bill.
If the Senate does approve the bill, it could face a possible veto from Democratic Gov. John Lynch, who’s expressed opposition to marriage equality but has not indicated if he would veto the bill.
The New Hampshire legislature approved civil unions in 2007, and Lynch signed the bill into law.
Colin Manning, a spokesperson for the governor, said Lynch believes that civil unions provide equal rights to same-sex couples.
“Gov. Lynch has not supported same-sex marriage,” Manning said. “But the civil-union bill he signed into law prevents discrimination and provides the same legal protection to all New Hampshire families to the extent that is possible under federal law.”
Democratic Rep. Jim Splaine, the openly gay prime sponsor of the bill, said that when the legislation failed by one vote, supporters of the bill took to the floor to convince some lawmakers to change their votes.
“I’ve been around here long enough to know that when you see you’re one vote away, you know there’s a way you can win,” Splaine told the Concord Monitor. “Given the opportunity to look people in the eye and say, ‘I’d really, really, really, really like you to consider this as an issue of discrimination,’ especially if you are openly gay, that can be a very powerful argument.”
The lawmakers voted down a motion by opponents to table the bill and, before pursuing the second vote, conducted hours of debate, in which such representatives as openly gay Democrat David Pierce, who has two daughters with his partner of 20 years, and Democrat Melanie Leavesque, who is part of an interracial couple, testified about the damaging effects of discrimination on families.