New Hampshire Governor John Lynch has signed a gay marriage bill into law, making the Granite State the sixth U.S. state to grant gay and lesbian couples the right to marry, Reuters reported.

“Today is a historic day for all Granite Staters,” said Mo Baxley, executive director of the New Hampshire Freedom to Marry Coalition, in a statement. “Today, our shared values of individual liberty, freedom, and fairness have been upheld.”

Additional Coverage: New Hampshire Poised to Pass Gay Marriage Bill

Lynch, a Democrat, signed the gay marriage bill into law less than an hour after lawmakers gave final approval of openly gay Representative Jim Splaine's bill.

In a surprising blow to opponents, the bill picked up 11 additional nods from lawmakers: 1 senator and 10 representatives.

Senators approved the bill early in the morning in a 14 to 10 vote that came along party lines with all Democrats in support and all Republicans in opposition.

The House, which had earlier rejected a bill that included the religious protections sought by Governor Lynch, surprised everyone with a 198 to 176 endorsement.

Opponents, mostly socially conservative religious groups, argued that gay marriage threatened “traditional marriage.” Supporters called the bill a victory for civil rights.

“Gov. Lynch's signing of the marriage equality bill grants legal protections for same-sex couples in New Hampshire to take care and be responsible for each other,” said Neil G. Giuliano, president of the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD), in a statement. “As people get to know the loving and committed couples at the heart of marriage equality, our culture is moving to equality.”

New Hampshire is the fifth New England state to legalize gay marriage, Rhode Island being the only holdout. The Iowa Supreme Court struck down a gay marriage ban in April. Only two other states – Maine and Vermont – have legalized gay marriage legislatively, instead of by court order.

Last month, the California Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of a voter-approved gay marriage ban which gay activists have vowed to repeal in 2010. A gay marriage bill in New York appears to be stalling in the state Senate.

The New Hampshire law goes into effect January 1.