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Gay marriage repeal advances, bill would allow civil unions

CONCORD - A House subcommittee Wednesday endorsed a bill that would repeal the state's gay marriage law and bring back a form of civil unions.

The House Judiciary panel voted 3-1 to amend the bill, and to recommend that the full committee approve the new language. The full House cannot vote on the bill until 2012.

The original form of the bill would have banned both gay marriage and civil unions outright. The bill, HB 437, now allows both same-sex couples and heterosexual couples to form civil unions.

New Hampshire law allowing gay couples to marry took effect in January 2010. The bill preserves marriage for gays who have married under the current law. From the time it takes effect, marriage would be available only to men and women.

The bill allows a form of civil union that has never existed in the state, open to any two persons. It also contains language that allows any business, individual, school or association to refuse to recognize civil unions, exempting them from state laws that bar discrimination on housing, employment, contracts and grants.

Rep. Gregory Sorg, R-Easton, a co-sponsor of the bill and the amendment, said gay marriage will cause harm to society over time, even if it is not evident now. 'Some societal changes take generations to manifest themselves,' he argued.

Gay marriage proponents criticized the bill. Standing up for New Hampshire Families spokesman Tyler Deaton called the language in the bill 'pernicious … It goes out of its way to employ discriminatory language.'


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