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Bill to allow refusal of service for gay weddings squashed

CONCORD — The House rejected a bill that would have allowed wedding service providers to refuse to perform gay weddings if an individual or business had religious or conscience objections.

Supporters of House Bill 1264 said a person or business should not have to provide services if it is contrary to their religious tenets or would violate their beliefs.

&#';This should be a very alarming warning,&#'; said the bill's prime sponsor, Rep. Jerry Bergevin, R-Manchester. &#';It means we are moving into a brave new world. It may not be your ox being gored at the moment, but just wait, it will be.&#';

Bill opponents said the bill would codify discrimination.

Rep. Barry Palmer, R-Nashua, who was a member of the New Hampshire Human Rights Commission, called the bill unconstitutional, illegal, immoral and mean-spirited.

&#';I have a rough idea of what discrimination is,&#'; he said. &#';This bill is illegal by state statute and illegal by federal law.&#';

The House killed the bill Wednesday by a 246-85 vote.

Under the bill, a business owner or employee would not have to provide services, accommodations, advantages, facilities, goods or privileges for a wedding ceremony if they had a religious or conscience objection. The person also would not be legally liable for his or her action.

Bergevin said the bill would protect a person of faith when he or she leaves a house of worship and goes to his or her everyday life.

&#';If a Jewish caterer wants to refuse to serve pork at a wedding reception,&#'; they would be protected for doing so,&#'; he said.

House Deputy Majority Leader Shawn Jasper, R-Hudson, said clergy members are protected under the state's gay marriage law.

To allow business or individuals with certain beliefs to refuse to provide services &#';would be an extremely slippery slope to be traveling down.&#';

People have the right to purchase goods and services from whomever they wish, he said. &#';No one should ever be able to put up a sign in New Hampshire that says &#';Poultry farmers not welcome.'&#';

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