Last week New Hampshire state Rep. David Bates (R) proposed an amendment to his marriage equality repeal bill (HB 427) that would reinstate civil unions. Despite vehemently opposing civil unions in the past, the Diocese of Manchester, which constitutes “The Catholic Church in New Hampshire”, is supporting Rep. Bates’s amendment.

In addition to repealing same sex marriage, the amended version of HB 437 would also re-establish civil unions for same sex couples. Civil unions were in place before the legislature created same sex marriage, and they were repealed when the same-sex marriage law was passed. Thus, the proposed amendment to HB 437 largely reinstates the situation which was in place before the same sex marriage law took effect. The Diocese of Manchester consistently has opposed legislation that would establish civil unions. However, the proposed amendment to HB 437 falls into a category of legislation which the US Bishops have previously considered: bills in civil law which may not reflect the fullness of the Church’s teaching, but which nonetheless provide an “incremental improvement” in the current law and a “step toward full restoration of justice.” USCCB, Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship, 32. Because the proposed amendment to HB 437 would accomplish the tremendously important goal of repealing the same sex marriage law, the Diocese supports HB 437.

Back in 2007, before New Hampshire’s civil unions bill passed, Chancellor for the Diocese of Manchester Diane Murphy Quinlan “asked lawmakers to preserve marriage between one man and one woman. Civil unions would degrade that relationship and fail to “serve the good of the people of New Hampshire”,” reported Concord Monitor. After the bill passed, Catholic Online quoted Quinlan as saying that the new law had in effect enacted same-sex marriage “no matter what you call it.”

To review, until this month the Diocese of Manchester vehemently opposed civil unions because they purportedly constituted same-sex marriage “no matter what you call it” and degraded heterosexuals’ civil marriages. Now all of a sudden the diocese can live with civil unions.

The Roman Catholic Church has a history of winking at their own dramatic, superlative-laden opposition to civil unions when it suits them. As I wrote back in 2010:

Despite many statements to the contrary, the Catholic Church clearly doesn’t believe that civil unions and domestic partnerships are intrinsic threats to heterosexual-only marriages or they would be fighting them hard at every turn rather than quietly ducking the issue (Washington) or outright endorsing civil unions (New Jersey, Maine and United Kingdom). Call it pragmatism, call it moral relativism, either way the Roman Catholic Church doesn’t always practice what it preaches on the “assault to the sacrament” that allegedly is civil unions.

Backstory Blog reports that National Organization for Marriage (NOM) has also reversed its earlier objection to civil unions and is endorsing Rep. Bates’s plan. NOM’s March 13th press release says:

The National Organization for Marriage (NOM) today urged the New Hampshire legislature to pass HB 437, compromise legislation to restore civil unions for same-sex couples, and repeal same-sex marriage while protecting couples who have already been “married.”

NOM is widely considered to be a money laundering front for a handful of deep-pocketed Catholics who refuse to follow the campaign donor disclosure laws that the rest of us abide by.

When the Catholic hierarchy and their front group NOM repeatedly flip-flop on such supposedly sacred matters, it’s no wonder that a supermajority of American Catholics listen to their own hearts and support civil marriage for same-sex couples.

Votes on the Rep. Bates’s amendment and the marriage equality repeal bill are expected as early as Wednesday, March 21st, according to Standing Up For New Hampshire Families.