New Hampshire became just the fourth state in the nation to allow same-sex civil unions after the state Senate passed a bill today. Democratic Gov. John Lynch has said that he intends to sign it into law, which would allow the civil unions to begin in 2008.
New Hampshire joins New Jersey, Connecticut, and Vermont as the only states to approve the civil unions. Nearby Massachusetts is the only state to allow same-sex marriages, although the Rhode Island attorney general ruled earlier this year that the stateÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s residents can legally pursue same-sex marriage in Massachusetts. New York governor Eliot Spitzer also announced plans to push a same-sex marriage bill through the state legislature. In the states of Washington, California, and Maine, same-sex domestic partnerships have been given varying degrees of legal legitimacy as well, while Oregon plans to follow suit in the near future.
New Hampshire is, by a large margin, the most conservative of all of the aforementioned states, although, like the others, it gave its electoral votes to Democratic candidate John Kerry in the 2004 presidential race. Still, it appears the deep libertarian roots of New Hampshire have outweighed its more typical conservative tendencies.
Meanwhile, 26 states have passed constitutional bans on same-sex marriage, and an additional 19 states have pushed through similar laws. It will be interesting to see if the subject of same-sex unions and/or marriages will become a key issue in next yearÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s presidential race. It also remains to be seen whether or not the federal government will take a more active role in dictating the terms of (or outright eliminating) these state-passed arrangements.