NH May Consider Civil Union Bill

By Jerry Miller | July 7, 2008 | 8:26 PM EDT

(CNSNews.com) - New Hampshire could be the second state in New England to consider a "civil union" bill. A civil union bill, which creates a parallel system of marriage for homosexual couples and guarantees them the same state benefits and job- related benefits as are enjoyed by heterosexual couples, was signed into law this week by Vermont Governor Howard Dean after approval by that state's legislature.

Meanwhile, New Hampshire Governor Jeanne Shaheen may be retreating from her statement earlier this week that she was in disagreement with the Vermont law. On Wednesday, Shaheen insisted that she opposed the Vermont action and that marriage should continue to be defined as a relationship between a man and a woman.

On Thursday, the governor's press secretary said her boss has not yet read the Vermont law and had no opinion on it. Pamela Walsh said Shaheen does oppose homosexual marriage, but she was uncertain whether Shaheen equated civil unions with marriage.

Meanwhile, Democratic State Senator Burt Cohen told CNSNEWS.com on Friday that it is possible a civil union bill could be introduced into the legislature next year, "depending on who wins" in the state's general election this fall.

"I hear wind of it," Cohen said. "Some people are encouraged by what happened in Vermont."

Democrats now barely control the state senate and have the governor's office. However, the House of Representatives is still dominated by the GOP, as it has been for much of the century.

Cohen said, while the measure will likely provide legal benefits to same-sex couples, he added, "I don't think anyone is proposing gay marriages."

Asked if a homosexual marriage bill could pass the legislature, Cohen responded, "no, it can't pass," even though the legislature last year lifted a ban against homosexuals serving as foster parents and legalized adoptions by same-sex couples.

"There was little resistance to those measures," Cohen noted. "It recognizes the needs of children to be in loving families.

"There is a significant libertarian streak in the state legislature, including the belief that the government should stay out of people's bedrooms. There is a tradition of supporting individual liberties," Cohen added.