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(RNS) New Hampshire Gov. John Lynch said Thursday (May 14) that he would sign legislation legalizing same-sex marriage as long as religious groups would be not be forced to “violate their deeply held religious principles.”
State lawmakers said a bill with those protections could reach Lynch’s desk within weeks, thus making New Hampshire the sixth state — and the fourth in the past two months — to allow gay marriage.
Lynch, who had opposed gay marriage, said in a statement that “my personal views on the subject … have been shaped by my own experience, tradition and upbringing. But as Governor of New Hampshire, I recognize that I have a responsibility to consider this issue through a broader lens.”
New Hampshire’s openly gay Episcopal bishop, V. Gene Robinson, testified before a state Senate committee in April in favor of gay marriage, telling lawmakers that “not doing the right thing will…cost you, not just in the next election but also in your soul’s self-respect.”
Robinson and his longtime partner were joined in a civil union, which New Hampshire legalized in 2008, last June. Mike Barwell, a spokesman for Robinson, said under the gay marriage laws passed by New Hampshire’s Senate and House of Representatives, civil unions would automatically convert to marriages next year.
Lynch proposed on Thursday that religious organizations, associations and societies — as well as individuals and non-profits managed, directed or supervised by a religious group — not be required to provide services, accommodations, facilities, goods or privileges to gay couples as a result of the gay marriage bill.
Lynch also said the proposed legislation should not require fraternal benefit societies — such as the Knights of Columbus, a Catholic group — to change their admission standards.
“It will make clear that they cannot be forced to act in ways that violate their deeply held religious principles,” Lynch said of the proposed law. “If the legislature doesn’t pass these provisions, I will veto it.”
Kevin Smith, director of Cornerstone Policy Research, a New Hampshire group that opposes against same-sex marriage in New Hampshire, told reporters that Lynch has flip-flopped on the issue.
“However the governor wishes to couch his decision on this,” Smith said, “the fact remains that by signing this bill, he will have broken his trust with New Hampshire voters after repeatedly stating that he opposes gay marriage.”
By Daniel Burke
Copyright 2009 Religion News Service. All rights reserved. No part of this transmission may be distributed or reproduced without written permission.

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