Gay couples in
New Hampshire will be able to join in civil unions
starting next year under a bill Gov. John Lynch signed into
law in Concord on Thursday.
''We in New
Hampshire have had a long and proud tradition taking the
lead and opposing discrimination,'' Lynch said.
''Today that tradition continues.''
Couples who enter
civil unions will have the same rights,
responsibilities, and obligations as married couples.
Same-sex unions from other states also would be
recognized if they were legal in the state where they
gathered for the bill-signing packed the governor's
chambers and overflowed into an adjoining sitting room. They
snapped photos and burst into applause as he signed
and I've heard all the arguments,'' said Lynch, a
Democrat. ''I do not believe that this bill threatens
marriage. I believe that this is a matter of
conscience and fairness.''
Diocese of New
Hampshire bishop V. Gene Robinson--the Episcopal
Church's first openly gay bishop in its
history--also attended the bill-signing. He and
his longtime partner plan to have a civil union.
alone among the U.S. states allows same-sex marriage.
Connecticut, Vermont, New Jersey, Maine, California, and
Washington as well as the District of
Columbia allow either civil unions or domestic
partnerships, and Oregon will join the list with New
Hampshire in January. Hawaii extends certain spousal
rights to same-sex couples and cohabiting heterosexual
New Hampshire is
the first state to embrace same-sex unions without a
court order or the threat of one. Connecticut adopted civil
unions two years ago while a lawsuit was pending.
success was a turnabout from two years ago, when a study
panel recommended against any meaningful consideration
of civil unions and endorsed a constitutional
amendment to limit marriage to unions between a man
and a woman.
But Democrats won
control of the legislature last fall for the first time
in more than a century. Civil unions passed both houses
largely along party lines, and Lynch promised to sign
it. (Beverley Wang, AP)