New Hampshire

Gay couples exchange vows on capital steps as NH legalizes same-sex marriage

Olin Burkhart and Carl Burkhart of Salem NH wed on the steps of the state capital in Concord Staff Reports

Gay and lesbian couples rushed to marry in New Hampshire on Friday when at the stroke of midnight it became the fifth U.S. state to allow same-sex marriage, reversing some setbacks for the polarizing national movement.

Olin and Carl Burkhart wed on the steps of the state capital in Concord.

According to Reuters, about 150 people gathered in the state capital of Concord, in temperatures of about 21 degrees, to witness the marriages of about a dozen gay and lesbian couples by a justice of the peace as the New Year dawned.

New Hampshire passed its marriage equality law last June amid an emotional national debate.

Gov. John Lynch signed the gay marriage bill into law just two years after he had signed a similar bill legalizing same-sex civil unions.

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.

New Hampshire joins Massachusetts, Vermont, Connecticut and Iowa in permitting full marriage equality for same-sex couples. Washington, D.C., is also on track for approval.

New York state lawmakers voted against gay marriage last month. In Maine, where a state law that would have allowed the nuptials, was turned back in a referendum in November. A same-sex marriage bill is foundering in New Jersey, and in California, gay marriage was overturned in a popular vote in 2008.

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