.- New Hampshire Gov. John Lynch on Wednesday afternoon signed a bill to legalize same-sex âmarriageâ in the state. In response, the Bishop of Manchester expressed âdeep disappointmentâ and concern that those who treasure marriage have been âmarginalizedâ by the positioning of the issue as a âcivil rightsâ matter.
The bill had been held up after disputes over religious freedom protections. Gov. Lynch, a Democrat, had previously expressed opposition to same-sex âmarriage,â and at the signing of the bill, said he âpersonally opposesâ the practice.
The law establishes civil and religious marriage licenses and allows each party to a marriage to be identified as bride, groom or spouse. Same-sex couples already in civil unions will be assumed to have a âcivil marriage,â the Associated Press says.
The governor had required that religious freedom protections be added to a bill previously passed by the legislature. The religious freedom protections contained in the newly-approved law consist of one sentence saying that church-related organizations that serve charitable or educational purposes are exempt from having to provide insurance and other benefits to same-sex âspousesâ of employees.
The law also specified that all religious organizations, associations or societies have exclusive control over their religious doctrines, policies, teachings and beliefs on marriage, protections presumably guaranteed by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
Lynchâs proposed language was rejected by two votes. The latest vote concerned a revised bill negotiated with the Senate.
The bill passed the New Hampshire Senate by a vote of 14-10, while the House passed it 198-176.
At the signing ceremony, Lynch said âToday, we are standing up for the liberties of same-sex couples by making clear that they will receive the same rights, responsibilities â and respect â under New Hampshire law.â
Episcopal Bishop of New Hampshire V. Gene Robinson, an open homosexual whose election as bishop caused a deep split in his church, praised the law. He said it is about âbeing recognized as whole people and whole citizens.â
The Catholic Bishop of Manchester John B. McCormack said in a statement obtained by CNA that he was âdeeply disappointedâ by the signing of the bill.
âThe new law passed our Legislature through the narrowest of margins with precipitous haste and without extensive study,â he critiqued. âThe law strikes a blow to the cornerstone on which our entire civilization is built and sustained: the marriage between one man and one woman.â
âIn a manner unlike any other relationship, the union of a husband and wife makes a unique and irreplaceable contribution to the common good of society. A man and a woman in a marriage bring children to life and model the way in which women and men live interdependently and commit, for the whole of life, to seek the good of each other. Our state has an obligation to protect the unique gift of marriage between one man and one woman.â
Bishop McCormack said he would continue to teach about the nature of marriage, a ânatural truthâ confirmed by âdivine Revelationâ that marriage is a âfaithful, exclusive, lifelong union of a man and a woman.â
âAs a citizen of this state, I am troubled that those who respect and treasure marriage as it has been understood for thousands of years have been marginalized while others position same sex marriage as a âcivil rightsâ issue. Marriage and same-sex unions are essentially different realities.â
He added that upholding marriage is âjustâ and does not offend the dignity or rights of homosexuals.
âI pray that the citizens of this state will recognize the clear need for a constitutional amendment on marriage,â he said.