N.H. House Votes Down Gay Marriage Bill Changes

The New Hampshire House of Representatives narrowly rejected changes on Wednesday to a same-sex bill that would protect churches opposed to marrying gays and lesbians.

Gov. John Lynch had said last week he would sign the measure if language was added to provide "the strongest and clearest protections for religious institutions and associations, and for the individuals working with such institutions."

Although legislative leaders were expected to adopt the changes and make New Hampshire the sixth state to legalize same-sex marriage, the House voted 188 to 186 against the revisions.

The vote came after the Senate passed the added language 14 to 10 on Wednesday.

Earlier this month, both the House and Senate had approved a version of the bill that stated religious ministers cannot be forced to sanction same-sex weddings under the law.

But Lynch, who supports traditional marriage, said he would only sign the bill into law if language was added to also protect religious groups and their employees from lawsuits if they do not perform marriages for gay and lesbian couples.

It is unclear whether Lynch will sign any other version of the bill.

"The governor articulated strong principles that needed to be included in order for him to sign the bill," Colin Manning, spokesman for Lynch, said in a statement. "While he will continue to talk with lawmakers, those principles must be maintained in any final version of the bill."

The measure now heads to a joint committee of the legislature to be considered further.

Episcopal Bishop Gene Robinson, who caused uproar in the Anglican Communion when he was consecrated as the first openly gay bishop in 2003, believes the legislation is only at a pause and is optimistic it will soon pass, according to The Associated Press.

Traditional marriage supporter Kevin Smith of Cornerstone Policy Research, meanwhile, says the House vote shows it's time to move on to other issues such as the budget.

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