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May 15, 2009

An example for Obama? NH governor shifts views, will support marriage equality

New Hampshire Gov. John Lynch said he will sign a bill legalizing same-sex marriage as long as the state legislature adds protections for religious groups that don't want to conduct the ceremonies, the Boston Globe reports. The announcement was a defeat for marriage opponents, who had pinned their hopes on the governor standing in the way of a bill that had been approved through the democratic process such groups claim to support (when it works in their favor).

According to the Globe, Lynch's earlier position had been to support civil unions but oppose marriage.  In this way, his position was the same as President Obama's.  As Obama told Rick Warren during the campaign, "I believe that marriage is the union between a man and a woman. Now, for me as a Christian ... it’s also a sacred union. You know, God’s in the mix." 

And so Obama, not unlike General Peter Pace in his comments on gays in the military, showed that he was unable or unwilling to separate his personal religious views from public policy -- indeed, that he would effectively impose such views by refusing to support equality in civil marriage, a troubling position for a former con law prof.  I suspect Obama actually does know the difference between civil and religious marriage, and so this episode demonstrated early on to me that Obama was more of a traditional politician than his supporters would acknowledge.

Contrast this stance with Gov. Lynch's statement on how he came to support fully equal marriage rights:

I have heard, and I understand, the very real feelings of same-sex couples that a separate system is not an equal system. That a civil law that differentiates between their committed relationships and those of heterosexual couples undermines both their dignity and the legitimacy of their families. 

I have also heard, and I understand, the concerns of our citizens who have equally deep feelings and genuine religious beliefs about marriage. They fear that this legislation would interfere with the ability of religious groups to freely practice their faiths.

Throughout history, our society’s views of civil rights have constantly evolved and expanded. New Hampshire’s great tradition has always been to come down on the side of individual liberties and protections.

That is what I believe we must do today.

-SS

May 15, 2009 | Permalink

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