Civil unions and same-sex
marriage (SSM) in New Hampshire
Timeline leading to the approval of same-sex marriages (SSMs) in New Hampshire:
2008-JAN: Civil Unions: Governor John Lynch (D) signed a civil union bill on 2007-MAY-31. It went
into effect on 2008-JAN-01. Loving, committed same-sex couples can now enter
into civil unions and receive all of the hundreds of state benefits that only
opposite-sex married couples had previously enjoyed.
2009-APR: Public opinion poll: The University ofNew Hampshire
Survey Center released a statewide poll that found that:
55% of adult residents support SSM
39% oppose SSM
6% don't know or refused to answer.
2009-MAY: SSM bill passed: A bill to legalize same-sex marriage (SSM) in New Hampshire was passed by the
state Senate and House.
2009-MAY-14, Governor Lynch refused to sign bill: He said that he would sign a bill into law that authorized SSM if the
Legislature modified it to give greater protections to churches and church
employees who wanted to
continue to discriminate against same-sex couples.
2009-MAY/JUN: Legislative activity: The House narrowly defeated
an amended bill. The House and Senate then formed a joint committee to find
a wording for the bill that will pass both bodies. The House and Senate were able to reach a compromise and passed the amended bill.
2009-JUN-03: Bill becomes law: Governor Lynch
signed the amended bill into law. New Hampshire thus became the sixth U.S. state to
That leaves Rhode Island as the only holdout against SSM
among the New England states. Because of the influence of the Roman Catholic
Church in that state, SSM may be difficult to achieve there.
2010-JAN: SSM comes to NH: Loving, committed same-sex couples became able to marry in 2010-JAN. However, same-sex couples are still
be denied over 1,100 federal benefits that are routinely given to opposite-sex
married couples because of the Defense of Marriage Act. That act is clearly unconstitutional and has been declared so by multiple federal courts.
Subsequent activity during 2010, 2011 & 2012:
During the 2010-NOV elections, Republicans gained control of both the state House and Senate. Governor John Lynch (D) was re-elected. Republicans launched an effort during 2011-OCT to repeal the SSM law. It would eliminate future SSMs in the state, and perhaps even forcibly divorce existing same-sex married couples. This would leave same-sex couples and their children without the hundreds of state protections and benefits of marriage. Republicans now have sufficient seats in both houses to overturn a veto by the Governor if the votes in the legislature went strictly according to party lines.
By mid 2011, support for SSM nationally surged ahead and opposition dropped significantly. National support was approximately the same as the support of New Hampshire voters two years earlier. By 2011-FEB, support for SSM in New Hampshire reached 62% and opposition shrank to 29%. Almost 44% of those polled said they would consider voting against any legislator who supported a proposed bill to cancel SSMs. We expect that support by the end of 2011 might reach 65% in the state. By that time, same-sex marriages would have been legal for two full years, and the heterosexual voters in the state would have realized that allowing same-sex couples to marry had affected neither themselves or their own marriages at all. Past experiences in places that have legalized same-sex marriages -- like Massachusetts, and Canada have shown that same-sex marriage becomes largely a non-issue after it is legalized.
In late October, Texas Governor Rick Perry came to New Hampshire to promote his candidacy for President in 2012. He advocated that the state's SSM bill be repealed. In mid-2011-NOV, the Republican-controlled House Judiciary Committee recommended the repeal bill for a vote in the full House early in 2012. It remained to be seen whether the Republican legislators are willing to face the wrath of the voters by passing such an unpopular bill. Governor John Lynch (D) promised to veto the repeal bill if it arrives on his desk. Commentators were debating whether both the House and Senate would have sufficient anti-SSM votes to override the veto. A two thirds majority in both would be required.
A vote on the bill, which would replace SSMs with civil unions in early 2013, was held on 2012-MAR-21. A totally unexpected event happened. The Republican-controlled House voted overwhelmingly (211 to 116) to kill the bill! This was an unprecedented event in the history of the U.S.