[JURIST] New Hampshire Governor John Lynch [official website] on Wednesday signed into law [press release] legislation [text] allowing same-sex marriages to be performed in the state, provided that religious clergy and organizations and their employees will not be required to participate in the services or recognize the unions. The New Hampshire Senate and House of Representatives passed [roll call] the bill earlier in the day. Earlier versions of the bill had separately failed to be approved by either the governor or House of Representatives [JURIST reports], based on disagreements over exemptions for religious groups and people. Signing the bill, Lynch said that its final version protected the rights of both same-sex couples and religious objectors to the marriages:
New Hampshire’s great tradition has always been to come down on the side of individual liberties and protections. That tradition continues today.
Two years ago in this room, I signed civil unions into law. That law gave same-sex couples in New Hampshire the rights and protections of marriage. And while civil unions was recognized as a step forward, many same-sex couples made compelling arguments that a separate system is not an equal system. They argued that what might appear to be a minor difference in wording to some, lessened the dignity and legitimacy of their families.At the same time, the word “marriage” has significant and religious connotations to many of our citizens. They had concerns that this legislation would interfere with the ability of religious groups to freely practice their faiths.
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. Today, we are also standing up for religious liberties. This legislation makes clear that we understand that certain faiths do not recognize same-sex marriage, and it protects them from having to participate in marriage-related activities that violate their fundamental religious principles.
Gay rights advocacy group Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) [advocacy website] applauded [press release] the passage of the bill, but opponents said it should have also exempted [NYT report] other professions frequently involved in wedding ceremonies from participating in the services. The law will take effect on January 1, 2010.
The law makes New Hampshire the sixth state to provide for same-sex marriage. Earlier this week, the Nevada Assembly passed [JURIST report] a same-sex partnership bill over a gubernatorial veto. Last month, the New York State Assembly [official website] passed a bill [JURIST report] that would allow same-sex marriages to be performed in the state. That bill will now go before the state senate. Earlier last month, Maine became the fifth state to allow same-sex marriage [JURIST report] when Governor John Baldacci [official website] signed a same-sex marriage bill into law. In April, Vermont became the first state to legalize same-sex marriage through a vote of the legislature, joining Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Iowa [JURIST reports] as the other states that allow same-sex marriage.