Waiting for Governor Lynch
When Democrats took control of the state legislature after the 2006 midterm election, I heard some Republican political elites argue that Governor Lynch’s natural inclination toward moderation would not be sufficient to prevent the new majority from shifting state policy dramatically to the left. Well, we’re about to get a pretty good test of that hypothesis, as Lynch decides what to do with the gay marriage legislation soon to be sitting on his desk.
While not showing his hand in brief comments yesterday, Governor Lynch seemed to draw an implicit distinction between his personal beliefs on gay marriage and his responsibility to the people of New Hampshire. As the governor of New York in the 1980s, Mario Cuomo famously took a similar position on abortion. Cuomo claimed that his Catholicism prevented him from personally supporting abortion, yet he was a solidly pro-choice governor.
Lynch’s similar private/public bifurcation on the issue has given New Hampshire progressives some hope that, at a minimum, he will let the bill become law after five days without his signature. They look to underlying shifts in the state’s demographics, recent public opinion data showing majority support for gay marriage, and the adoption of similar legislation in surrounding states as incentives for Lynch to now recalibrate his public position, even as he voices personal misgivings.
As I have noted many times before, Governor Lynch is not an ideologue. He is by nature a task-driven chief executive who prefers to build bipartisan support for his policy decisions. But it’s pretty difficult to split the difference on gay marriage. He either has to allow it in the state, or not. My sense is that Lynch has sufficient political capital to withstand the blowback he will inevitably receive from whichever side of the debate he disappoints. A record fourth term will likely still be his for the taking, but that won’t make the current decision any easier.


Posted On: 05-07-2009 15:22:05 by Jim Splaine
I agree with much of your assessment, except on the "blowback" he will have if he signs the bill. The polls indicate general support for the kind of "civil marriage" and "religious marriage" process provided by House Bill 436. Plus, most of those who are lobbying against HB 436 won't vote for John Lynch because of other issues anyway -- such as his support of choice, labor, or the budget. He's not conservative enough, socially or even fiscally, for their tastes. I think he can sign this bill, especially since he would be using his leadership to bring people together, and he knows that history treats well those leaders who fight against discrimination and stand for equality and fairness. Beside, would he want to be Governor of a state that would then be an island of discrimination within itself, surrounded by the marriage equality laws of Maine, Massachusetts, Vermont, Connecticut, and Canada? Signing HB 436 is a win-win for Governor John Lynch. I don't say that as a sponsor, I say that as an observer of politics for the past nearly half a Century.

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