By Eric Moskowitz, Globe Staff
New Hampshire Governor John Lynch today said he would sign a same-sex marriage bill into law -- but not the one passed recently by both houses of the state's Legislature.
Lynch, who had expressed opposition to same-sex marriage in the past, said the bill approved by the New Hampshire House and Senate did not do enough to assert that churches and other religious groups would not be forced to conduct "marriage ceremonies that violate their fundamental religious beliefs."
The governor, a Democrat, proposed new wording to enhance the bill.
"If the Legislature passes this language, I will sign the same-sex marriage bill into law. If the Legislature doesn't pass these provisions, I will veto it," Lynch said. "We can and must treat both same-sex couples and people of certain religious traditions with respect and dignity. I believe this proposed language will accomplish both of these goals and I urge the Legislature to pass it."
The main gay marriage bill and a companion bill that fixed several problems were adopted last week. They had yet to make it the governor's desk for his signature. Now, they will be held until the protections proposed by Lynch are adopted, said Senate President Sylvia Larsen.
Larsen predicted the Senate would act quickly to adopt the changes.
House Speaker Terie Norelli said the House would work with the Senate to review and act on his suggestions as quickly as possible.
"I want to thank the governor for his leadership in finding a way that our state can move forward to enact marriage equality and, at the same time, respect religious tolerance," said Norelli, a Portsmouth Democrat.
The bill's main sponsor, state Represntative Jim Splaine, said the bottom line is that Lynch supports marriage equality for gays.
Mo Baxley, executive director of New Hampshire Freedom to Marry Coalition, a group supporting gay marriage, approved of Lynch's proposed changes.
"This is language we can support," she said.
Governor John E. Baldacci of Maine last week also became the first governor in the country to sign a same-sex marriage bill into law without being spurred to action by a court decision. Gay marriage is now legal in four of the New England states, Massachusetts, Maine, Vermont, and Connecticut.
Material from The Associated Press was used in this report.
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