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N.H. Panel Looks at Defining Marriage

October 6, 2005

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) _ A state commission studying the issue of gay marriage voted Wednesday to recommend a constitutional amendment defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman.

The vote of 7-4, with two abstentions and two members absent, upset some commissioners who wanted to discuss versions of civil unions that have been adopted in other states.

``Everybody’s dancing around it, I thought I’d bring it to a head,″ said state Sen. Jack Barnes, a Republican who made the motion in favor of the amendment.

``To jump right to the support of a constitutional amendment ... one certainly thinks that perhaps politics played a large part in this vote,″ said Commissioner Raymond Buckley, a Democrat who opposed the motion.

A bill recommending the constitutional amendment has not been submitted, but Barnes said he will sponsor one if asked.

Any move to change the New Hampshire constitution would need to pass in both the House and Senate by a three-fifths majority. Then it would need voter approval by a two-thirds majority.

Many states have constitutional amendments banning gay marriage, in addition to laws that prohibit it.

Massachusetts’ highest court ruled in November 2003 that same-sex couples had a right under the state constitution to marry.

The Connecticut Legislature approved civil unions in April, joining Vermont in creating the designation that affords the same legal rights as marriage without calling it that. In September, California lawmakers voted to legalize same-sex marriage, but Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed the measure.

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