BY STEPHEN FROTHINGHAM, Associated Press
Civil unions will become legal in New Hampshire on Jan. 1, allowing gays to apply for the same rights as married people. Same-sex unions from other states also will be recognized in New Hampshire if they were legal in the state where they were performed.
Questioned about civil unions after a speech at a dental benefits company, Thompson said, "I would not be in support of that."
But when he elaborated, he switched from civil unions, which give gays legal rights equivalent to those of married couples, to same-sex marriages, which are legal only in neighboring Massachusetts.
"Basically so far, it is a judge-made controversy," Thompson said. "No state or governor has signed off on such legislation on the state level that has endorsed marriage between the same sexes. There may have been a couple of courts that said the Constitution of their states has required that, so it's a judicially made situation as far as I am concerned."
Massachusetts' highest court ruled in 2003 that same-sex couples have a constitutional right to marry. But high courts in several other states have refused to follow suit, including Maryland last month. Cases are pending in Connecticut and California.
Edward Paul, an employee of the Delta Dental Plans Association, asked the question Monday, but had trouble being understood.
"I'm proud to say that in January 2008 New Hampshire has passed a law facilitating civil unions here. ... What is your belief for federal civil unions to be passed?" Paul asked.
"Soviet Union?" Thompson responded.
"No, civil unions," Paul said.
"Oh. No, I would not be in support of that," Thompson said.
Paul said he wasn't surprised, or impressed.
"I think he needs to do more homework on whatever state he's in and I don't think he did on that question," said Paul. He said he is a registered independent who plans to vote in the Democratic presidential primary.
Thompson's campaign has said the candidate would let states decide whether to sanction civil unions. He has supported federal action to protect states from having to recognize gay marriages performed in other states. As a Tennessee senator, he voted against legislation to prohibit job discrimination based on sexual orientation.
On Monday, Thompson also filed the paperwork to get on the ballot for the GOP primary in New Hampshire.