N.H. same-sex couples prepare to marry
A new era begins in New Hampshire on Jan. 1 when gays and lesbians can begin to legally marry.
Although Gov. John Lynch said he personally opposes marriage for same-sex couples, he signed legislation into law on June 3 that will allow gays and lesbians to tie the knot.
Marriage will replace civil unions, which have been legal in the state since Jan. 1, 2008. Couples who have civil unions can choose to convert them to marriages by filling out paperwork with their local governments. If they do nothing, their civil unions will still convert to marriages on Jan. 1, 2011, and couples can then obtain marriage licenses.
City and town clerks began to distribute applications in October.
The Boston-based Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders has published How to Get Married in New Hampshire that covers what couples need to know.
Officials expect January to be a busy month for weddings Couples with whom EDGE spoke said they don’t plan to marry on Jan. 1, but rather soon after the new year.
Leah and Elizabeth Richards of Durham had a civil union in a Feb. 2008. At the time, Elizabeth was pregnant with their son Finley and she gave birth to him the following June. The couple is planning a marriage celebration dinner with friends in January, but will not have another ceremony.
Leah Richards, who is a residence hall director at the University of New Hampshire, said Finley was a major reason the couple decided to have a civil union.
"Without it, I wouldn’t have been on the birth certificate, so it did save potential trouble," she said. "We decided we wanted to take advantage of a civil union as quickly as possible in case they went away. We largely did it because it made a huge difference for our family. It was a clear shift for them."
She said she feels a legal marriage will end the complications she contends civil unions have periodically caused the couple.
"People really don’t know what a civil union is," Leah Richards added. "Every time we had to fill out a form, we had to constantly explain our relationship. For example, forms say ’single or married.’ We’re not married. We’re in a civil union, but as soon as we leave the state, it doesn’t exist. Even at the university, they had to create a separate category for us."
The couple has six copies of their civil union certificate. And they keep one in their car case of an emergency.