New Hampshire‘s LGBTQ community is preparing for a different type of New Year’s celebration tonight, where in just a few hours many same-sex couples plan to exchange vows on the steps of the State House in Concord.
At 12:01 a.m. Friday morning, New Hampshire becomes the fifth U.S. state to legalize gay marriage.
While gays in the state have had the right to civil unions for two years, the legislation eliminates differences between gay and heterosexual unions.
New Hampshire’s new marriage law takes effect as gay marriage and gay rights are being debated across the country and across the globe. And for every step forward, it seems, comes another step backward – toward discrimination and worse.
History, of course, shows us that civil rights movements take time. The opposition can be persistent and sometimes ugly. Progress can seem achingly slow. In that context, New Hampshire’s largely civil debate and quick vote to expand equal rights stands out as brave and forward-thinking and just.
Gov. John Lynch signed the gay marriage bill into law in June, about two years after he had signed a similar bill legalizing same-sex civil unions.
When the gay marriage law goes into effect, couples who previously joined with a civil union can apply for a conversion to marriage or a new marriage license, but all civil unions will automatically convert to marriages on January 1, 2011. The state will no longer issue civil union licenses after today.
Officials began issuing marriage licenses to gay couples on October 3 in anticipation of the law taking effect January 1, 2010. New Hampshire joins Massachusetts, Iowa, Vermont and Connecticut, which already allow same-sex marriage.