The New Hampshire Legislature legalized civil unions two years ago and the marriage equality law passed in June. On January 1, New Hampshire became the fifth state in the nation to recognize same-sex marriages, joining Massachusetts, Vermont, Connecticut and Iowa.
Several couples gathered on the State House steps to honor their relationships and the new law.
While it does not grant new rights for same-sex couples, the new law dissolves separate civil union statuses.
Mo Baxley, executive director of the New Hampshire Freedom to Marry Coalition, said about 40 couples statewide had filed paperwork to convert their civil union statuses ahead of the new year.
The AP reports: New Hampshire became the sixth state to legalize gay marriage after the Senate and House passed key language on religious rights and Gov. John Lynch — who personally opposes gay marriage — signed the legislation.
After rallies outside the Statehouse by both sides in the morning, the last of three bills in the package went to the Senate, which approved it 14-10.
Cheers from the gallery greeted the key vote in the House, which passed it 198-176. Surrounded by gay marriage supporters, Lynch signed the bill about an hour later.
“Today, we are standing up for the liberties of same-sex couples by making clear that they will receive the same rights, responsibilities — and respect — under New Hampshire law,” Lynch said.
Lynch, a Democrat, had promised a veto if the law didn’t clearly spell out that churches and religious groups would not be forced to officiate at gay marriages or provide other services. Legislators made the changes.
Massachusetts, Connecticut, Maine, Vermont and Iowa already allow gay marriage, though opponents hope to overturn Maine’s law with a public vote.