State becomes ninth, not including District of Columbia, to offer some form of protection for same-sex couples
New Hampshire Gov. John Lynch approved civil unions for same-sex couples by signing the bill into law on Thursday, May 31.
This makes New Hampshire the ninth state in the nation, not including the District of Columbia, that provides at least some form of state-level recognition for same-sex couples.
“The state of New Hampshire can now proudly be counted among the one out of every five states in the country that are leading the way in recognizing the love and commitment of all couples,” Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese said.
The bill passed the state Legislature last month with a vote of 14 to 10 in the Senate and 243 to 129 in the House of Representatives.
The civil unions will be available starting in January. Same-sex couples will have the same rights, responsibilities and obligations as married couples. Under the bill, same-sex unions from other states also will be recognized if they are legal in the state in which they were preformed.
HRC isn’t the only organization happy about Lynch’s signature. The National Stonewall Democrats are praising the new civil unions as well, saying that they passed because of the newly elected Democratic majority in both the state House and Senate following the 2006 general election.
“New Hampshire has not only provided family protections in the form of civil unions, but the Granite State has just given us an example of why it is important to elect Democrats to public office,” NSD Executive Director Jo Wyrick said.
In previous years, the Republican-controlled state legislative bodies had made repeated attempts to enact anti-gay legislation such as bans on adoption and defining marriage as between a man and a woman.
Many activists, including Solmonese and Wyrick, hope that New Hampshire’s actions will be repeated in other states.
“It is my hope that New Hampshire’s successful effort will serve as inspiration across the nation that it can be done,” New Hampshire’s Democratic Party Chair Ray Buckley said.
New Hampshire Senate President Sylvia Larsen says it was a no-brainier to pass the law.
“This is not a state that believes in discrimination,” she said. “And once people understood that same-gender couples were being denied rights like hospital visitations and the right to inherit the homes they’d shared with their loved ones — stories like that opened our eyes. And once your eyes are opened, you can’t close them again. This is the right thing to do.”
Vermont, Connecticut and New Jersey have civil union laws similar to New Hampshire’s. California and Oregon have domestic partnership laws that grant a broad spectrum of state-level rights, benefits and responsibilities to same-sex couples. Hawaii, Maine, Washington and Washington D.C. recognize same-sex relationships and offer a handful of rights to same-sex couples. Only Massachusetts gives the full right of marriage to same-sex couples.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition, June 1, 2007.