Saturday, January 2, 2010

2010 Starts Out on a High Note for LGBT Couples

At the stroke of midnight January 1, same-sex marriage became legal in New Hampshire, a state which had already allowed civil unions for gay couples and a California law look effect that recognizes same-sex marriages and civil unions performed elsewhere.

Reuters reports:
"Gays rush to marry at New Hampshire statehouse" Boston - Gay and lesbian couples rushed to marry in New Hampshire on Friday when at the stroke of midnight it became the fifth U.S. state to allow same-sex marriage, reversing some setbacks for the polarizing national movement.
"I feel fabulous. It was wonderful, and it was historic," said Linda Murphy, 50, a college administrator from southern New Hampshire who married Donna Swartwout, her partner of 19 years.

They were among 150 people gathered in the state capital of Concord, in temperatures of about 21 degrees Fahrenheit (-6 Celsius), to witness the marriages of about a dozen gay or lesbian couples by a justice of the peace as the New Year dawned.

New Hampshire passed its law in June amid an emotional national debate. President Barack Obama opposes gay marriage while supporting other gay rights.

The New England state joins Massachusetts, Vermont, Connecticut and Iowa in permitting full marriage equality for same-sex couples. Washington, D.C., is also on track for approval.

New York state lawmakers voted against gay marriage last month. In Maine, where a state law that would have allowed the nuptials, was turned back in a referendum in November. A same-sex marriage bill is foundering in New Jersey, and in California, gay marriage was overturned in a popular vote in 2008.

"People focus on the setbacks, but last year there was one state and now there are five states," said Mo Baxley, executive director of the New Hampshire Freedom to Marry Coalition.

Murphy and Swartwout, who met in graduate school, had a commitment ceremony 11 years ago, but said the official marriage carried far more meaning.

"It was a reaffirmation of our love and our commitment, and for us, for the first time, a legal acknowledgment from our home state," said Murphy. "Some day this will not even be a news story. It will just be a part of life."

On the west coast, bill SB54, signed in October without fanfare by California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, took effect on January 1 giving legal recognition to same-sex marriages and civil unions performed outside the Golden State in a move that some are hailing as way around Prop 8 and a possible step forward in overturning the homophobic law that struck down marriage equality.

The new law recognizes the marital status of those couples that were legally married elsewhere during the period when same-sex marriage was legal in California. The law goes further in expanding the rights of those gay and lesbian couples that were united in ceremonies performed outside California since then, although the state cannot legally call them marriages under Prop 8.

It remains to be seen if the new law will strengthen the efforts under way to overturn Prop 8. Keep your fingers crossed
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