Same-sex marriage in New Hampshire

Same-sex marriage in New Hampshire
Legal recognition of
same-sex relationships


South Africa

Performed in some jurisdictions

Mexico: Mexico City
United States: CT, DC, IA, MA, NH, NY, VT, Coquille, Suquamish

Recognized, not performed

Aruba (Netherlands only)
Curaçao (Netherlands only)
Mexico: all states (Mexico City only)
Sint Maarten (Netherlands only)
United States: CA (conditional), MD

Civil unions and
registered partnerships

Czech Republic
- New Caledonia
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Isle of Man
New Zealand
United Kingdom

Performed in some jurisdictions

Australia: ACT, NSW, TAS, VIC
Mexico: COA
United States: CA, CO, DE, HI, IL, ME, NJ, NV, OR, RI, WA, WI

Unregistered cohabitation



Recognized in some jurisdictions

United States: MD

See also

Same-sex marriage
Same-sex marriage legislation
Timeline of same-sex marriage
Recognition of same-sex unions in Europe
Marriage privatization
Civil union
Domestic partnership
Listings by country

LGBT portal
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Same-sex marriage became legal in the U.S. state of New Hampshire on January 1, 2010,[1] replacing civil unions. On January 1, 2011, all civil unions in the state became marriages unless otherwise dissolved, annulled or previously converted to marriage.[1]

On January 1, 2008, civil unions became legal in the state.[2] Legislation for same-sex marriage was signed into law by the governor on June 3, 2009,[3][4] making New Hampshire the fifth state to legalize same-sex marriage.[5] New Hampshire was one of a series of states in 2009 to legalize same-sex marriage in New England.


Civil unions

After the 2006 general election, when Democrats became the majority party of the New Hampshire state legislature, several bills were considered which would grant same-sex couples greater civil rights in the state. Proposals were made by both Democratic and Republican politicians. The various proposals ranged from allowing couples to enter into a "contractual cohabitation," a "civil union," a "spousal union," or a same-sex marriage. Governor John Lynch opposed same-sex marriage, but did, through various spokespersons, indicate that he was receptive to discussing civil unions as a means of granting certain rights to same-sex couples.[6]

On April 4, 2007, the New Hampshire House passed a civil unions bill, HB437, with a vote of 243 to 129, to give partners in same-sex civil unions the same "rights, responsibilities and obligations" as heterosexual couples in marriages.[7] Lynch stated on April 19, 2007 that he would sign legislation granting civil unions to same-sex couples because he believes " is a matter of conscience, fairness and preventing discrimination."[8] On April 26, 2007, the New Hampshire Senate approved the civil unions bill 14-10 along political party lines.[9] On May 31, 2007, Governor John Lynch signed the civil unions bill into law,[10] making New Hampshire "...the first state to embrace same-sex unions without a court order or the threat of one."[9] The law took effect January 1, 2008.[10][11]

Licenses were made available on December 10, 2007[12][13] such that civil unions could be sealed starting at 12:01 am on January 1, 2008. Deputy secretary of state David Scanlan said, "As far as we're concerned, everything is on schedule."[12]

Civil unions took place throughout New Hampshire just after midnight on January 1, 2008. The largest gathering occurred in Concord, on the steps of the State House. Twenty-three couples were expected to participate in the event, however, an estimated 40 actually took part, and some 200-300 friends, family and onlookers observed. The event drew one protestor who "...quietly handed out a statement calling all sex outside of heterosexual marriage a sin..."[2][14]

Under the New Hampshire civil unions law, same-sex civil unions or marriages conducted in other states will be recognized as civil unions in New Hampshire. House Bill 1415 was introduced by Representative Maureen Mooney to repeal this portion of the current civil unions bill and was ultimately deemed inexpedient to legislate.[15][16][17]

At the end of 2008, after one year of legal recognition of same-sex civil unions in New Hampshire, approximately 600 civil unions licenses have been issued by the state, while approximately 8,700 marriage licenses were issued by the state during the same time period.[18][19]

Legal implications of civil unions

Despite the civil union law intending to provide "all the rights and subject [a couple] to all the obligations and responsibilities provided for in state law that apply to parties who are joined together,"[20] only some benefits, and some limitations, shall exist.[21][22][23]


  • Access to medical care information and decision making;
  • Access to proceedings and information related to partner's death, and ability to make funeral arrangements;
  • Right to be placed in the same room in a nursing home;
  • Health care coverage under state-regulated family plans;
  • State pension benefits;
  • Inheritance without a will;
  • Ability to transfer property between partners without paying state taxes;
  • Ability to change names by showing civil union certificate to government agencies, banks, etc. and simply stating a name preference;
  • Pay or receive alimony and/or child support ordered by a court in a divorce;
  • Ability to adopt as a stepparent.[22]


  • Legal status only recognized in certain states;
  • Unclear divorce proceedings should one or both partners move out-of-state;
  • If partner's death occurs out-of-state, unclear whether surviving partner may obtain death certificate and claim body;
  • Employers governed by federal laws are allowed to provide health and other benefits only to heterosexual couples on a tax-free basis, whereas same-sex couples must pay income taxes on the value of such benefits (note: New Hampshire does not levy income tax);
  • Partners are treated as unmarried adults under more than 1,100 federal laws;
  • May jeopardize a couple's ability to adopt overseas;
  • Federal privacy laws can prohibit access to some medical care information without durable power of attorney.[22]


On March 18, 2009, the New Hampshire House of Representatives Judiciary Committee voted in a deadlocked vote 10-10 to send a same-sex marriage bill, HB 436, to the floor of the House of Representatives.[24] The tied committee vote resulted in the Committee not being permitted to issue a recommendation on the bill. On March 26, 2009, the New Hampshire House of Representatives voted 182-183, but after a motion to reconsider the first vote, the vote was 186-179.[25][26] On Thursday, April 23, 2009, the New Hampshire Senate Judiciary Committee by a vote of 3-2 recommended that the full Senate defeat the bill, but the following Wednesday, the Senate approved an amended version of the bill 13-11.[27] The amended bill then went on to pass the House, and thus the legislature, on Wednesday, May 6, 2009; however, it was not clear whether Gov. John Lynch would sign it, veto it, or let it become law without his signature,[28][29] and once the bill officially reached his desk, he would have five days to veto the bill before it became law.[30] The bill recognized out-of-state civil unions as marriages. Couples who had New Hampshire Civil Unions would be able to apply for a marriage license, however if they didn't apply for a marriage certificate their civil unions would automatically be converted to marriages on January 1, 2011.[1]

On May 14, Lynch, though being personally opposed to gay marriages, said he would sign the bill so long as it contained increased protections for churches against lawsuits if they refuse to marry gay couples.[31][32] Legislative leaders indicated on the same day that they would allow the changes.[33] On May 20, 2009, the Senate passed the changes 14-10, along party lines, but the House unexpectedly failed to agree later in the day by a vote of 188-186.[34] Opponents tried to kill the bill, but failed 173 to 202.[35] The House then voted 207-168 to ask the Senate to negotiate a compromise.[35] On May 29, a compromise with some minor changes was reached, which the governor approved of, which was sent back for a vote.[36] The new version was approved 14–10 by the Senate and 198–176 by the House, on June 3, and was signed by the Governor shortly thereafter.[5][37][38] Lynch is the second governor in the US, the first being John Baldacci of Maine, to sign a bill allowing same-sex marriage.

New Hampshire law also recognizes foreign and out-of-state same-sex marriages.[39]

Transition from civil unions to marriage

As of January 1, 2010, no new civil unions were established in the state.[40] Those who entered into a valid civil union before January 1, 2010, were able to have their marriages solemnized, provided they met the legal requirements of the state marriage laws and were the same two people in the civil union. Additionally, such persons in civil unions before January 1, 2010, were able to record their civil unions with the town or city clerk who recorded the civil union and receive a marriage license, with no additional fee or solemnization required. A civil union entered into before January 1, 2010, that had not been dissolved, annulled, or merged into a marriage, was converted to a marriage on January 1, 2011.[1]

Public opinion

The University of New Hampshire Survey Center released a statewide poll taken from April 13–22, 2009 which concluded that 55% of New Hampshire residents supported same-sex marriage, while 39% percent opposed it.[41][42] The Center also released a poll taken January 27-February 6, 2011 which found that 62% of New Hampshire residents opposed the new Republican-dominated legislature's efforts to repeal the 2009 law legalizing same-sex marriage, with only 29% in favor of repeal. In addition, 51% voiced strong opposition to repeal.[43][44] Another poll conducted between January 30 and February 3, 2011 by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research shows that 59% of New Hampshire residents support allowing same-sex couples to marry and 34% are against. The poll also found that 63% of residents oppose the bill repealing same-sex marriage, while 29% support it.[45]

A July 2011 Public Policy Polling survey found that 51% of New Hampshire voters thought that same-sex marriage should be legal, while 38% thought it should be illegal and 11% were not sure. A separate question on the same survey found that 80% of respondents supported legal recognition of same-sex couples, with 45% supporting same-sex marriage and 35% supporting civil unions, while only 19% thought that there should be no legal recognition and 1% were not sure.[46] Significantly, a majority supported marriage among demographics that are typically adverse to it. More than 65% of those who responded considered themselves to be moderate to very conservative with only 1/3 identifying as having an affiliation with the Democratic party. Over 75% of respondents were age 45 or older with nearly half being aged 45 to 65, an age group statistically less likely to support marriage. Among respondents, only 10% were under the age of 29, the statistically largest group to support marriage.

2010 Constitutional amendment proposal

There were two proposals, one a bill which would repeal same-sex marriage and the state 2007 civil union law while the other a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage in the state.[47] Both bills were defeated in the New Hampshire house on February 17, 2010.[48]

Economic impact

A UCLA study from March 2009 estimates the impact of allowing same-sex couples to marry on New Hampshire’s state budget. The study concludes that allowing same-sex couples to marry, as opposed to the old civil union scheme, would result in a net gain of approximately $500,000 each year for the State.[49] This net impact will be the result of savings in expenditures on state means-tested public benefits programs and an increase in meals and room tax revenues from increased wedding-related tourism.

Possible repeal

The New York Times reported in July 2011 that "pressure is mounting for the Legislature to take another historic step by reversing course" and repealing the law legalizing same-sex unions.[50] On October 25, 2011, the House Judiciary Committee voted 11-6 to repeal the gay marriage law and establish civil unions.[51] The bill will go to the full House in January or February 2012. Supporters of repeal say the bill will not nullify existing gay marriages, but opponents say there are legal issues with what they say are conflicting provisions in the repeal bill.[52]

See also

Same-sex marriage
Marriage in US


  1. ^ a b c d "HB 436-FN-LOCAL – VERSION ADOPTED BY BOTH BODIES". Retrieved 2009-05-15. 
  2. ^ a b Robidoux, Carolyn. (1 January 2008) Civil unions ring in the New Year New Hampshire Union Leader. Accessed 1 January 2008.
  3. ^ Governor signs gay marriage bill into law
  4. ^ Landrigan, Kevin (2009-06-03). "Same-sex marriage bill headed for governor's desk". The Telegraph (Nashua). Retrieved 2009-06-03. 
  5. ^ a b Empowering Spirits Foundation Press Release (3 June 2009) Empowering Spirits Applauds Passage of NH Marriage Equality Bill Empowering Spirits Foundation. Accessed 4 June 2009.
  6. ^ Liebowitz, Sarah. (5 March 2007) Gay unions could gain support Concord Monitor. Accessed 11 April 2007.
  7. ^ Moskowitz, Eric. (5 April 2007) N.H. House passes civil unions Concord Monitor. Accessed 11 April 2007.
  8. ^ AP. (19 April 2007) Lynch: NH should have civil unions New Hampshire Union Leader. Accessed 19 April 2007.
  9. ^ a b Wang, Beverley. (26 April 2007) State Senate approves civil unions for same-sex couples Concord Monitor. Accessed 26 April 2007.
  10. ^ a b AP. (31 May 2007) Lynch signs bill legalizing civil unions. Concord Monitor. Accessed 31 May 2007.
  11. ^ HB 437 Bill Legislative History New Hampshire General Court. Accessed 14 February 2008.
  12. ^ a b Fahey, Tom. (25 November 2007) State House Dome: Date set for civil union licenses New Hampshire Union Leader. Accessed 25 November 2007.
  13. ^ AP. (25 November 2007) Civil unions license available by Dec. 10 Concord Monitor. Accessed 25 November 2007.
  14. ^ Timmins, Annmarie. (1 January 2008) Same-sex couples say 'I Do' just after midnight Concord Monitor. Accessed 3 January 2008.
  15. ^ (31 December 2007) Midnight Ceremonies Mark Civil Unions WMUR-TV. Accessed 3 January 2008.
  16. ^ HB 1415 Text New Hampshire General Court. Accessed 3 January 2008.
  17. ^ HB 1415 Legislative History New Hampshire General Court. Accessed 14 February 2008.
  18. ^ AP. (9 January 2009) 600 civil unions in first year for N.H. Concord Monitor. Accessed 11 January 2009.
  19. ^ HB 73 Bill Status
  20. ^ HB 437-FN-L Text New Hampshire General Court. Accessed 3 January 2008.
  21. ^ (31 December 2007) N.H. Civil Unions Have Protections, Pitfalls WMUR-TV. Accessed 3 January 2008.
  22. ^ a b c AP. (2 January 2008) Benefits and pitfalls for gay couples Concord Monitor. Accessed 3 January 2008.
  23. ^ AP. (2 January 2008) N.H. same-sex unions: promise and reality Chicago Tribune. Accessed 3 January 2008.
  24. ^ HB436 Docket report
  25. ^ House Approves Same-Sex Marriage After Bill Initially Fails WMUR
  26. ^ New Hampshire Takes Step Closer to Approving Same-Sex Marriage
  27. ^ Gay Marriage Could Come to N.H. New York Times
  28. ^ AP. (6 May 2009) N.H. Legislature approves same-sex marriage bill SeacoastOnline. Accessed 6 May 2009.
  29. ^ AP. (26 March 2009) NH House approves gay marriage Boston Globe. Accessed 26 March 2009.
  30. ^ (10 May 2009) Same-sex marriage bill in limbo Nashua Telegraph.
  31. ^ Governor Lynch Statement Regarding Same-Sex Marriage Legislation
  32. ^ New Hampshire Gov. Backs Gay Marriage, Palluxo, May 14, 2009
  33. ^ New Hampshire Set to Approve Same-Sex Marriage
  34. ^ New Hampshire lawmakers reject gay-marriage bill
  35. ^ a b New Hampshire House balks on marriage equality bill, Bay Windows, Lisa Keen, May 20, 2009
  36. ^ Compromise reached on NH gay marriage bill, The Boston Globe, Associated Press, Holly Ramer, May 29, 2009
  37. ^ Same-sex marriage becomes law in NH
  38. ^ Governor Lynch Statement Regarding Same-Sex Marriage Legislation Signed Into Law Today
  39. ^ New Hampshire legalizes gay marriage
  40. ^ HOUSE BILL 73 AN ACT affirming religious freedom protections with regard to marriage and prohibiting the establishment of civil unions on or after January 1, 2010.
  41. ^ New Hampshire governor mum on marriage bill
  42. ^ New poll shows majority of New Hampshire voters continue to support marriage equality
  44. ^ Poll shows support for NH gay marriage law
  45. ^ New Hampshire Voters Strongly Oppose Repealing the Law that Allows Gay and Lesbian Couples to Marry Findings from a survey of New Hampshire voters
  46. ^
  47. ^ Amendment bid aims to stop gay marriage in N.H.
  48. ^ NH House rejects two anti-gay marriage measures
  49. ^ The Impact on New Hampshire's Budget of Allowing Same-Sex Couples to Marry
  50. ^ New York’s Approval of Same-Sex Marriage Spurs Opponents for New Fights
  51. ^ Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named repeal102011; see Help:Cite errors/Cite error references no text
  52. ^ NH panel votes to recommend gay marriage repeal

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