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Gay Marriage Laws in New Hampshire

New Hampshire Gay Marriage

In a lot of ways, it was bound to happen. After being one of the first states to pass a civil unions bill in 2007, providing rights, such as the same state benefits accorded to married couples, to those in same-sex partnerships within the New Hampshire gay community, New Hampshire followed the lead of four other fellow New England states in furthering equal rights for all, by legalizing same-sex New Hampshire marriages.

That action made it the sixth U.S. state to do so. On June 3, 2009, despite opposing the idea of legalized New Hampshire marriage rights for homosexual couples in the past, Governor John Lynch signed a new marriage equality bill (House Bill 436) in support of New Hampshire gay marriage unions, after changes were made and two other bills were approved to give religious institutions and clergy greater protections in relation to gay marriage, such as performing the marriages. The bills became effective on January 1, 2010.

In the months building up to the official signing, the House of Representatives had technically already approved the New Hampshire marriage equality bill in question weeks beforehand, but it would not pass due to certain sensitive issues relating to religious institutions. And so while the Senate changed the language of the bill, on insistence of the Governor, two addition bills (HB73 and HB310) were also signed, which affirm religious freedom protections with regard to marriage.

These additions state that religious organizations and societies have "exclusive control" over religious "doctrines, teachings and beliefs." Simply put, the newly adapted New Hampshire marriage laws for same-sex couples are separate from the laws of marriage in respective religious communities. So if your religious leader wants to deny you the right to marry within the religion, they can. Other than attempting to convince a religious leader with valid arguments, by law, couples can't do anything else about it.

The New Hampshire gay marriage law also recognizes same-sex marriages from other states, as well as civil unions in New Hampshire. Gay couples who have such civil unions in New Hampshire, will automatically be considered married, as of January 1, 2011.

Although there have been measures taken to try and topple down these New Hampshire gay rights advancements, including a proposal to repeal same-sex marriage and civil unions, and another to create a constitutional amendment that bans same-sex New Hampshire marriage unions, all proposals were defeated on February 17, 2010. For now, marriage equality for all in New Hampshire, gay and straight, remains, and the successful New England Marriage Equality movement continues to set an example for other areas of the United States.

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