Marriage equality reaches New Hampshire

MARRIAGE EQUALITY REACHES NEW HAMPSHIRE…. And then there were six.

The New Hampshire legislature approved revisions to a same-sex marriage bill on Wednesday, and Gov. John Lynch promptly signed the legislation, making the state the sixth to let gay couples wed.

The bill had been through several permutations to satisfy Mr. Lynch and certain legislators that it would not force religious organizations that oppose same-sex marriage to participate in ceremonies celebrating it. Some groups had feared they could be sued for refusing to allow same-sex weddings on their property.

Mr. Lynch, who previously supported civil unions but not marriage for same-sex couples, said in a statement that he had heard “compelling arguments that a separate system is not an equal system.”

“Today,” he said, “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.”

By all appearances, the exemptions for religious institutions, which derailed state legislation last month, were unnecessary and redundant, but their inclusion cleared the way for passage.

Regardless, New Hampshire joins the small-but-growing list of states to endorse marriage equality, and is the third to do so through the legislative process. For a while, the right took some solace in the fact that “activist” courts were responsible for allowing consenting adults to get married. It suggested that gay marriage may have been legal in some states, but the process itself lacked legitimacy.

Now, voters’ elected representatives are stepping up, not because the judiciary said that they must, but because they see marriage equality as the right thing to do.

Perhaps the most heartening aspect of these developments is that they’re no longer shocking. There’s a certain routine quality to the New Hampshire law, which is as it should be.

Post Script: Also note, the pressure is clearly on Rhode Island now. New England has six states, and same-sex marriage is now legal in five (Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Maine, and New Hampshire). Time to get on the ball, R.I.