The Democratic-controlled state house endorsed gay marriage, 198-176, hours after the state senate approved the legislation 14-10 along party lines. Gov. John Lynch, a Democrat, signed the bill, which goes into effect on Jan. 1.
"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," Lynch said in a statement.
Marriage equality in the United States is gaining momentum, despite the recent California Supreme Court ruling on the state's Proposition 8, which upheld the constitutionality of a 2008 ballot referendum in which voters banned gay marriage. Six states allow same-sex marriages, and two others are considering laws to legalize the practice. What's exciting is that four of the six states to legalize gay marriage have done so in the past two months.
Gay marriage has been legal in Massachusetts since 2003. Connecticut legalized same-sex marriage in October. On Election Day, the passage of Prop 8 and Arkansas' adoption ban seemed like huge setbacks. Then this spring, in rapid succession, Iowa, Vermont, and Maine legalized gay marriage.
New York Gov. David Paterson introduced legislation to legalize same-sex marriage in April, and the measure passed the state assembly overwhelmingly. While polls indicate that voters are evenly split on the question, the bill's chances in the New York Senate are excellent.
New Jersey, which recognizes civil unions, is considering a law that would legalize gay marriage. A competing measure to constitutionally ban same-sex marriage, meanwhile, has met with little support.
While 12 percent of states have legalized same-sex marriage, several more have laws recognizing marriage-like rights. While the map below might not look that encouraging, the speed with which same-sex marriage has progressed is astonishing and heartening.
While anti-gay marriage group NOM's "Gay Thunderstorm" ad has been rightly derided, it certainly nailed the metaphor: Advances for same-sex marriage have occurred at a lightning pace. During the 2008 presidential campaign, opposition to gay marriage in favor of civil unions was the safe position for Democratic candidates, including Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.
As New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson said of gay marriage, "I will level with you -- I would do what is achievable. What is achievable is full civil unions with full marriage rights."
Scant months later, that position seems as quaint as an ice cream social, and gay marriage opponents, including Rudy Giuliani, are now taking cover behind that fall-back position. President Obama's normally impeccable political instincts seem to have been outflanked this time, as his thread-the-needle position has quickly become obsolete.
On the bright side, the fact that these gains have been made with the president essentially on the sidelines is that much more encouraging.
"In the past, I opposed gay marriage while supporting the idea of civil unions," Baldacci said. "I have come to believe that this is a question of fairness and of equal protection under the law, and that a civil union is not equal to civil marriage."
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