Jun 4, 2009

Why I Am Excited About NH (Even Though I Don’t Believe in Marriage Laws)

For more details on my opinion against Marriage Laws, see this post.

While I was aware that a Same-Sex Marriage bill was being discussed in state Congress, I did not become fully aware of the bill until it awaited the Governor’s signature, and subsequently did not receive it. When I heard the reasons why, I became excited.

The original bill (HB 436-FN-LOCAL) states, in reference to the freedom of religion, the following:

457:37 Affirmation of Freedom of Religion in Marriage. Members of the clergy as described in RSA 457:31 or other persons otherwise authorized under law to solemnize a marriage shall not be obligated or otherwise required by law to officiate at any particular civil marriage or religious rite of marriage in violation of their right to free exercise of religion protected by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution or by part I, article 5 of the New Hampshire constitution.

Before he could sign this bill into law, Gov. Lynch required additional bills (HB 310-FN & HB 73) that further protected the rights of religions, which add to the above:

[457:37 I.] …Each religious organization, association, or society has exclusive control over its own religious doctrine, policy, teachings, and beliefs regarding who may marry within their faith.

[457:37] II. No 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 be required to participate in a ceremony solemnizing marriage in violation of the religious beliefs of such organization, association, or society.

[457:37] III. 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 his or her 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.

IV. The marriage laws of this state shall not be construed to affect the ability of a fraternal benefit society to determine the admission of members pursuant to RSA 418:5, and shall not require a fraternal benefit society that has been established and is operating for charitable or educational purposes and which is operated, supervised, or controlled by or in connection with a religious organization to provide insurance benefits to any person if to do so would violate the fraternal benefit society’s free exercise of religion as guaranteed by the First Amendment of the United States Constitution and part I, article 5 of the New Hampshire constitution.

V. Nothing in this
chapter shall be deemed or construed to limit the protections and exemptions provided to religious organizations under RSA 354-A:18.

The addition bills also further clarify the rights of Jewish Rabbis, Quakers, Justices, and others related to the solemnization of civil marriage. What is created is a beautifully redundant way of saying: If you represent a religion and disagree with a particular marriage, you are not required by law to participate in any way in that marriage or celebration thereof.

Clear distinction is made between the rights of the government and the rights of religions in marriage. That is, a distinction is drawn between Civil Marriage and Religious Marriage. Although religious marriage is still required to abide by the laws set forth governing civil marriage (marriage in NH is still limited to two persons), civil marriage is no longer required to abide by the regulations of religious marriage.

This is a victory, but not the final solution. Ideally, while civil marriage is understandably limited to two persons (and only one union per person at a time), religious marriages will some day be allowed to include any number of desired persons without affecting civil law.

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