This morning the New Hampshire law legalizing civil unions for same-sex couples went into effect. Thirty-seven couples were married in a group ceremony at the New Hampshire Statehouse, where the law was enacted, right as the new year began. Most amazing of all: there weren’t any protesters.
As ceremonies go, the outdoors event that began at 11 p.m. Monday was equal parts political rally, party and personal triumph.
”We really didn’t believe that we’d be able to see this accomplished within one year but it has happened,” state Rep. Jim Splaine, a sponsor of the civil unions bill, told the cheering crowd of about 200. ”One thing we have to keep in mind is that there is much more to do. We have to continue the journey to make sure that we have marriage equality, full marriage equality — with the word marriage — soon.”
New Hampshire’s civil unions law — enacted by the Democrat-dominated Legislature early last year and signed by Democratic Gov. John Lynch in May, gives same sex couples the same rights, responsibilities and obligations of marriage without calling the union a marriage. New Hampshire is the fourth state in the nation to allow civil unions.
”We are a citizen legislature and we legislated this into being,” said state Rep. Gail Morrison, a Democrat and co-organizer of the event who entered into a civil union with her longtime partner.
New Hampshire is now one of only five states that legally recognizes same-sex couples, four with civil unions and only one with marriage. Baby steps. Allowing same-sex unions to hold the same legal title as opposite-sex unions is a very important symbolic and political step. And it’s sad to be so close and yet so far away. But I think that what most of us can agree on is that in the end, this battle isn’t nearly as much about the message as it is about the rights. Being able to make medical decisions on the other’s behalf when necessary, easier adoption processes, health care benefits, pension and inheritance access, etc. This is about people’s lives. Hopefully, we can trust Rep. Jim Splaine on his promise to keep up the pressure, and we can fight for the necessary symbolic step another day. In the meantime, let’s celebrate the victory. Good job, New Hampshire.