New Hampshire made history yesterday, becoming the first state in America to legalize gay civil unions without court order or the threat of lawsuit. Signing the bill, Gov. John Lynch said
“We in New Hampshire have had a long and proud tradition of taking the lead in opposing discrimination,” Lynch said as he signed the bill. “I do not believe that this bill threatens marriage. I believe that this is a matter of conscience and fairness.”
But I have to wonder at his statement. On the one hand, this makes six states that recognize some form of domestic/civil union for gay couples (Washington, California, Vermont, New Jersey, Maine, New Hampshire), with Oregon joining the list in January. Massachusetts allows same-sex couples to marry, but only Hawaii extends certain marriage-like benefits to cohabitating couples of either sex.
That is where my reservation comes from. If it were truly a matter of fairness, I don’t believe we would need new laws. Instead, we would simply allow gay couples to marry – or straight couples to have civil unions. But at this moment in time, we are creating legal equivalents of different drinking fountains. It used to be that different laws applied based on the colour of your skin – now they apply based on who you join in relationship with.
It does not oppose discrimination to reinforce it by creating and maintaining divisive laws based on sexual preference.