Gay couples in New Hampshire will
welcome the new year with champagne toasts and wedding rings.
A gay marriage law approved by
lawmakers takes effect on January 1. Gay couples who want to be
among the first to marry in the state will be making their wedding
vows along with their new year resolutions.
New Hampshire officials began issuing
marriage licenses to gay couples on October 3. As of Wednesday, 29
lesbian and 11 gay couples had secured marriage licenses, which
expire after 90 days.
Stephen Wurtz, acting director of the
state's Division of Vital Records, told On Top Magazine that
the state does not impose a waiting period for a marriage license,
predicting the number of same-sex weddings on the law's first day
would not be possible.
In an email, Wurtz said the state has
recognized 809 gay couples in the past 24 months since a civil unions
law went into effect. In its first month, January 2008, 174 gay
couples tied the knot, but since then the number has steadily
decreased, with only 6 civil union licenses issued so far in
Couples joined with a civil union can
apply for a conversion to marriage or a new marriage license, but all
civil unions will automatically convert to marriages on January 1,
2011. The state will no longer issue civil union licenses after
December 31, 2009.
Several large gay marriage celebrations
are being planned for New Year's Eve.
New Hampshire Freedom to Marry Coalition, the group that lobbied
for the gay marriage law, will hold a large celebration ceremony on
the steps of the state capitol in Concord on New Year's Eve. Claire
Ebel, executive director of the New Hampshire Civil Liberties Union,
will serve as justice of the peace. (The group would not comment on
how many couples they expect will marry at the event.)
Another reception is being hosted by
Without Borders at the Radisson Hotel in downtown Manchester.
The event – Live Free or Die Single – will blend a
traditional New Year's Eve party of champagne toasts with a wedding
“This event is an affordable way for
same-sex couples to legally marry, make history by being amongst the
first couples to wed on the first day the law is enacted in New
Hampshire, and to start the new year by publicly declaring their love
while standing up for their rights at such a legislatively critical
time in gay history,” Tim Harrises, event coordinator, said in a
New Hampshire joins Iowa, Connecticut,
Massachusetts, and Vermont in legalizing gay marriage. Lawmakers in
the District of Columbia have approved a gay marriage law expected to
take effect in February.