WASHINGTON - The Human Rights Campaign commends New Hampshire legislators for passing a civil unions bill that will permit committed same-sex couples to have the same state-level rights, responsibilities and obligations as married couples. Today, the state Senate passed H.B. 437 by a vote of 14 to 10. A companion bill passed the state House of Representatives with a bipartisan vote of 243 to 129 earlier this month.
"New Hampshire has taken a significant step in giving all families the equal state 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, New Hampshire families are significantly more protected today than they were yesterday."
The bill would provide important and much-needed real-world protections, including hospital visitation, medical decision-making and inheritance rights for New Hampshire's same-sex couples.
Lynch has pledged to sign the bill, which would make New Hampshire the fourth state to recognize civil unions and the ninth to provide some level of protection to committed same-sex couples. Massachusetts provides equal marriage rights Vermont, Connecticut and New Jersey recognize civil unions California has domestic partner benefits that provide nearly all the state-level benefits of marriage Hawaii has a reciprocal beneficiaries law and Maine, Washington and the District of Columbia provide registered domestic partners some level of critical protection.
The Human Rights Campaign worked closely with legislators, community groups and local leaders to help elect a fair-minded majority in New Hampshire in 2006, which subsequently voted today to pass the civil unions bill in the Legislature.
"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 HRC, 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 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.
Full text of the New Hampshire civil unions bill can be found at http://www.gencourt.state.nh.us/legislation/2007/HB0437.html.
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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