After some last minute changes, New Hampshire Gov. John Lynch signed a bill this afternoon legalizing gay marriage. New Hampshire is now the sixth state to recognize same-sex marriage.
Lynch, a Democrat who says he personally opposes gay marriage, promised to veto the bill if it didn't specifically spell out that churches and other religious groups would not be forced to officiate at gay weddings or provide other services. Legislators made the changes, and Lynch signed the bill, saying:
"Today, we are standing up for the liberties of same-sex couples by making clear that they will receive the same rights, responsibilities — and respect — under New Hampshire law."
Opponents, mainly Republicans, criticized the legislative process. Kevin Smith, executive director of gay marriage opponent Cornerstone Policy Research, said:
"It is no surprise that the Legislature finally passed the last piece to the gay marriage bill today. After all, when you take 12 votes on five iterations of the same issue, you're bound to get it passed sooner or later."
When the law goes into effect January 1, 2010, New Hampshire will join Massachusetts, Connecticut, Maine, Vermont and Iowa in allowing gay marriage. California briefly allowed same sex marriage last year before voters banned it with the now infamous Prop 8. A court last week upheld that vote in California, but said those who had gotten married (roughly 18,000 couples) when the law was in effect would remain legally married.
Read the Opposing Views debate, Should Marriage for Same-Sex Couples be Legal?