Last week New Hampshire Governor John Lynch signed into law a civil union bill that had passed the legislature back in April. When the bill goes into effect next January, New Hampshire will be the third state in New England and the fifth in the US to offer lesbian and gay couples a legal union that - while not marriage - purports to offer the same rights, responsibilities, and benefits. Vermont, Connecticut and New Jersey also offer civil unions, and California offers a registered domestic partnership. (Oregon will start offering a similar domestic partnership option in January, 2008).
This is a big step toward equality in New Hampshire, where same-sex couples and their children currently live in a painful legal void. New Hampshire Freedom to Marry, gay and lesbian legislators and allies in the state should be congratulated on this victory.
But, for all the benefits they may provide, civil unions are not equal to marriage. Marriage provides better protection, allows entry into a universally recognized and respected institution, and avoids the inequities fostered by creating separate laws just for a minority group.
GLAD has created a guide to New Hampshire civil unions (pdf). The publication explains the process for obtaining a civil union (once they become available in January, 2008), the rights and protections civil unions will - and will not - convey, and information to help New Hampshire same-sex couples determine whether or not a civil union is the right step for them.
Take a look, and let us hear your feedback. Do you have further questions? What will civil unions mean for New Hampshire?
Let's keep moving forward toward full equality!