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Sex: Marriage Laws Embroil Legislatures

New Englanders push for domestic-partner benefits
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The New Hampshire House of Representatives voted 276-88 to reject a bill that would have blocked homosexual couples from claiming a right to domestic-partner benefits. Those voting against the measure in late March called it unnecessary since New Hampshire already counts itself among the 32 states defining marriage as a bond between one man and one woman.

Supporters of the failed proposal say a legal loophole remains open for the New Hampshire Supreme Court to mandate equal partner benefits for same-sex couples, as the high court of Vermont did in 1999. That, says Rep. Carlos Gonzalez, R-Manchester, would undermine the special status that traditional marriage holds in society.

The bill "didn't work, but we don't need to quit," Gonzalez said. "The great majority of people in my district and in New Hampshire don't want [such] civil unions."

Last year, in response to a state Supreme Court ruling, Vermont legalized civil unions as a vehicle to extend domestic-partner benefits to couples of the same sex. Since then, redoubled efforts to protect the uniqueness of traditional marriage have gone nowhere in various state legislatures.

Connecticut might follow Vermont's example. A bill to legalize same-sex civil unions is working its way through the committee process and could come to the Senate floor for a vote.

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