Thursday, May 14, 2009

NH Gov to sign gay marriage bill, with one addition

Gov. Lynch of New Hampshire will sign the gay marriage bill, legalizing gay marriage in that state, as long as there are explicit protections for religious groups. New Hampshire Public Radio reports the actual language, which includes the following:

Notwithstanding any other provision of law, a religious organization, association, or society, or any individual who is managed, directed, or supervised by or in conjunction with a religious organization, association or society, or any nonprofit institution or organization operated, supervised or controlled by or in conjunction with a religious organization, association or society, shall not be required to provide services, accommodations, advantages, facilities, goods or privileges to an individual if such request for such services, accommodations, advantages, facilities, goods or privileges is related to the solemnization of a marriage, the celebration of a marriage, or the promotion of marriage through religious counseling, programs, courses, retreats, or housing designated for married individuals, and such solemnization, celebration, or promotion of marriage is in violation of their religious beliefs and faith. Any refusal to provide services, accommodations, advantages, facilities, goods or privileges in accordance with this section shall not create any civil claim or cause of action or result in any state action to penalize or withhold benefits from such religious organization, association or society, or any individual who is managed, directed, or supervised by or in conjunction with a religious organization, association or society, or any nonprofit institution or organization operated, supervised or controlled by or in conjunction with a religious organization, association or society.

Now, there are three points to this text that I notice. First, is the persistent use of the term "religious organization"; and second, a very precise specification of people who have a formal relationship with that organization. What I get from this , is that any exceptions that are covered in this text that allow someone to deny service or accommodation, are specifically limited to formal religious groups and their direct affiliates and employees. That means, the average man on the street who may be a member of this religious organization but is not acting as their agent (for example, someone at the florist) is not covered by the exemptions and therefore not excused from providing service under usual anti-discrimination laws. Third, this text is very specific about marriage-related services.

SO, my understanding (and I'm sure legally minded readers will correct me if I'm wrong) is that this text allows any religious group and their formal affiliates to deny marriage associated services to anyone they choose. Which I believe, is a right they already had for the most part.

In any case, I can live with it.

4 comments:

James said...

Can you imagine the outrage that would be heard if this were included in a bill about race? This is, for me, unacceptable. Furthermore, it is establishing one religious view over another and that violates the letter of the 1st Amendment.

IT said...

James, it doesn't really elevate one view. It really just states what is already true: religious groups have great latitutde in who they serve. They have always been free to deny accommodation.

It only gets tricky with public/religious overlap, like church property maintained with public funds. But if there's a bright line, it shouldn't be a problem.

If it's a compromise to put the text in there, fine. I can live with it.

FranIAm said...

Came by to say hello and wish you well on this great blogging effort IT!

Erp said...

The churches already have that right in regards to race (and I suspect there are some hangover laws from the Jim Crow era that state that explicitly). Some of the boundaries might need to be hashed out in the courts but getting state recognized marriages is the important item. It will still be a bit longer before Bishop Robinson can wed in his church (though he is quite likely content with the blessing he has already gotten and would just go for the civil wedding).