New Hampshire Latest State To Allow Same-Sex Marriage

State becomes sixth to allow same-sex unions.

On Wednesday, New Hampshire became the sixth state to allow gay couples to wed. The New Hampshire Legislature approved revisions to a same-sex-marriage bill, and it was promptly signed by Democratic Governor John Lynch, according to The New York Times.

The bill was passed after provisions requested by Lynch were added that ensured it would not force religious organizations that oppose same-sex marriage to participate in ceremonies celebrating it. The original bill exempted members of the clergy from having to perform same-sex marriages, but Lynch said he would veto it unless language was added that would also exempt religious groups and their employees from having to take part in such ceremonies.

Lynch had long supported civil unions for same-sex couples — which afford some, but not all, of the rights and responsibilities as marriage — but had not endorsed marriage for gay couples.

In a statement following the signing of the bill, he said the arguments he heard in favor of full marriage rights for gays convinced him that "a separate system is not an equal system. ... 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." New Hampshire passed a civil-union law two years ago, and those unions will now convert into marriages on January 1, 2011, if the couples don't take action to convert them sooner.

The new marriage law will take effect January 1. Gay marriage became legal in Iowa in April, joining Massachusetts, Maine, Connecticut and Vermont as states that allow same-sex marriage. New York is also considering a bill that would legalize gay marriage in that state, and gay-rights advocates in California have vowed to try and put a referendum on the 2010 ballot in an effort to overturn Proposition 8, which passed in November and redefined marriage in the state as unions between men and women only.

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