ST Breaking news: 6th state to allow gay marriage

4 June 2009
Straits Times Breaking News (online only)
Source

6th state to allow gay marriage

New York  – THE US state of New Hampshire has become the nation’s sixth to allow same-sex marriage, adding fuel to the fire of a social issue that remains divisive across much of the United States.

Supporters insist that legalising same-sex marriage is a question of civil rights and equal rights. Some opponents favour legally sanctioned same-sex unions, not called marriage; and others reject outright any government sanctioning of same-sex unions.

Many polls also show a generational divide with younger American adults overwhelmingly in favour of same-sex marriage. Their older counterparts, polls show, may not approve of the unions being defined using the same word as a traditional marriage, and many have religious misgivings.

Governor John Lynch, a Democrat, signed the bill shortly after legislators in the northeastern state approved the measure, his spokesman Colin Manning said.

The lower house passed the bill earlier Wednesday by a simple majority. The upper house has already passed the same draft law.

Mr Lynch had indicated he would give his signature provided there was protection for the rights of religious groups opposing gay marriage, something legislators said is achieved in the bill.

In a statement after the vote, the lower house said the bill ‘distinguishes between civil and religious marriage and says that any two individuals have a right to a civil marriage. It also leaves it up to each religion whether to recognise and officiate over same-sex marriages.’

In April after a vote in the state senate, Mr Lynch had said he recognised the issue was ‘intensely passionate and personal, and raises strong emotions on all sides.’

Connecticut, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts and Vermont allow gay marriage. New York’s state lower house has approved a bill proposed by Governor David Paterson and the upper house is considering the issue. — AFP

SIDEBAR

DESPITE the momentum building through traditionally liberal New England in the northeast, the United States as a whole has been in less of a hurry to embrace this change.

In the centre of the country, only Iowa so far has made the legal shift, which of course has wide-ranging implications on issues such as inheritance, adoptions and taxation.

The fiercest battle is in California, long a stronghold of gay activism, where last week the state Supreme Court upheld a ban on same-sex marriage.

Gay and lesbian activists had sought to overturn the result of a November referendum known as Proposition 8 that redefined marriage in California as unions between men and women only.

However, the court ruled that some 18,000 same-sex weddings carried out before the ban took effect would remain valid.

Two lawyers who faced off in the bitter fight over the 2000 US presidential election have joined forces in a federal lawsuit challenging California’s ban on same-sex marriage.

Ted Olson and David Boies – who argued on opposite sides in the legal battle that settled the election between George W. Bush and Al Gore – announced their federal lawsuit at a press conference in Los Angeles May 27.

The suit – filed on behalf of two same-sex couples – argues that the California referendum which redefined marriage in the state as unions between men and women only was a violation of the United States constitution.

Mr Olson, a conservative who served as US Solicitor General for George W. Bush between 2001-2004, said the lawsuit sought to give gay and lesbian couples equality. — AFP

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