WASHINGTON - Today, New Hampshire Gov. John Lynch signed into law a bill allowing same-sex couples to enter into civil unions which would provide for legal recognition of those relationships in the state of New Hampshire. When the bill goes into effect, New Hampshire will become the 10th state in the nation, along with the District of Columbia, that provides at least some form of state-level relationship recognition for same-sex couples.
Last month, the New Hampshire state Legislature passed the civil unions bill through the Senate by a vote of 14 to 10 and in the House of Representatives by a bipartisan vote of 243 to 129.
"The state of New Hampshire can now proudly be counted among the one out of every five states in this country that are leading the way in recognizing the love and commitment of all couples," said Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese. "Governor Lynch and the Legislature have taken an important stand on the side of fairness, and by doing so New Hampshire is now helping move our country even closer to the realization of equality.
"This law is a significant step toward giving all New Hampshire families the rights, responsibilities and protections they need," said HRC President Joe Solmonese. "Thanks to the Legislature, Governor John Lynch and countless supporters of fairness across the state, all New Hampshire families will be significantly more protected by this new civil unions law."
Solmonese continued, "This is a major step toward ensuring equality for all families. The conversation about marriage and the rights and protections only it provides will continue. As we are doing across the country, we will continue to tell the stories of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender families in New Hampshire so that soon there will be no need for two lines at the town clerk's office - one for GLBT families and one for everybody else."
"It is my hope that New Hampshire's successful effort will serve as inspiration across the nation that it can be done. This positive result proves that direct involvement in elections makes a real difference. Were it not for the significant support from the Human Rights Campaign, we would not be celebrating today's victory," said Ray Buckley, New Hampshire's Democratic Party chair.
"This is not a state that believes in discrimination. 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," said New Hampshire Senate President Sylvia Larsen, D-Concord.
Larsen noted that New Hampshire was one of the first states to oppose slavery and, later, to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment. New Hampshire also is among the minority of states in amending its constitution (in 1974) to prohibit discrimination on the basis of race, creed, color, sex or national origin.
Ten states plus Washington, D.C., now have laws providing at least some form of state-level relationship recognition for same-sex couples. Vermont, Connecticut and New Jersey have civil unions laws similar to New Hampshire's. California and Oregon have domestic partnership laws which grant a broad spectrum of state-level rights, benefits and responsibilities to same-sex couples (Oregon's domestic partnership law becomes effective in January 2008). Three other states - Hawaii, Maine and Washington state - and Washington, D.C., recognize same-sex relationships and offer a handful of rights to same-sex couples (Washington state's law becomes effective July 22, 2008). Only Massachusetts gives same-sex couples the full right to marriage, and even in Massachusetts, the federal Defense of Marriage Act has blocked same-sex couples from receiving equal federal rights, benefits and responsibilities.
The Human Rights Campaign is America's largest civil rights organization working to achieve gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender equality. By inspiring and engaging all Americans, HRC strives to end discrimination against GLBT citizens and realize a nation that achieves fundamental fairness and equality for all.
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