The Associated Press reports there was just one protester at the Statehouse as dozens of gay and lesbian couples entered into civil unions in New Hampshire in the early minutes of New Year’s Day. A new state law legalized the partnerships after midnight.
In a related story, Senator Barack Obama today released the following statement on the new law:
“Today, New Hampshire has started a New Year by taking an important step forward that will make a meaningful difference in the lives of so many gay and lesbian couples. As President, I’ll work for the day when all gay and lesbian couples in America can enjoy the same legal rights and privileges as straight couples. It’s time to stop using these issues to divide us; it’s time to embrace a future of tolerance, equality, and hope.”
New Hampshire organizers said 37 couples participated in an outdoor ceremony on the plaza of the New Hampshire Statehouse. The Boston Globe reported that a total of nearly 100 couples took advantage of the new law in the day’s early hours. Couples bundled up against below-freezing temperatures. Pictured are two couples during ceremonies.
“We really didn’t believe that we’d be able to see this accomplished within one year but it has happened,” Rep. Jim Splaine, a sponsor of the civil unions bill, told the cheering crowd of about 200. “One thing we have to keep in mind is that there is much more to do. We have to continue the journey to make sure that we have marriage equality, full marriage equality – with the word marriage – soon.”
New Hampshire’s civil unions law – enacted by the Democrat-dominated Legislature early last year and signed by Democratic Gov. John Lynch in May, gives same sex couples the same rights, responsibilities and obligations of marriage without calling the union a marriage.
After making brief group vows together, couples walked through an archway decorated with rainbow ribbons and a “just married” banner to meet officiants for individual ceremonies. As they walked through, fireworks from the city’s New Year’s celebration lit up the sky.
New Hampshire follows Vermont, Connecticut and New Jersey in allowing civil unions. Massachusetts is the only state that allows marriage. New Hampshire estimates that as many as 3,500 to 4,000 civil unions will be performed this first year.
Sources: NH Insider; Associated Press
Photo: Steven Senne/AP