‘Live Free or Die’ state now place to ‘Live Free and Marry’
Both bodies had voted earlier to approve same-sex marriage, but Lynch wanted additional language that would allow religious organizations that were opposed to same-sex marriage not to perform those ceremonies. The legislature complied and he signed the new measure.
New Hampshire joins Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, Iowa, and Vermont in providing marriage benefits to gays and lesbians. Marriages in New Hampshire can begin January 1, 2010.
UUs have long been on the front lines of the campaign for same-sex marriage in New Hampshire. The Rev. Mary Wellemeyer, of the UU Church of Manchester, said Thursday, “The mood here is ebullient. Everybody seems to have now decided that this action on marriage is consistent with the way we do things in the ‘Live Free or Die’ state. This is about people being able to live free and marry.”
She said members of her congregation have been active in advocating for marriage equality. A member of the congregation, Robert Thompson, is in the New Hampshire House and served as a floor manager for debate on the marriage bill. “We also have about eight to ten members of our congregation who showed up any time they were asked to at the capital.” She noted that civil unions only went into effect in New Hampshire on January 1, 2008.
The first chance that the Rev. Kendra Ford at First UU Society of Exeter, had to celebrate was at a program council meeting Wednesday night in the parsonage. “We got out the rainbow flags and we found a stack of colored paper crowns in the religious education rooms and we put them on and had our meeting. I expect we’ll celebrate for a few days.”
Her congregation also has two members in the House, Donna Schlachman and John Henson. Another member, David Weber, is on the New Hampshire Freedom to Marry board, a statewide group advocating for marriage equality. “They’ve been a steady presence in the congregation about this issue,” said Ford. Schlachman and Weber were also instrumental years ago in helping the congregation achieve “Welcoming Congregation” status, a designation meaning that the congregation had completed the UUA’s Welcoming Congregation program and is intentionally welcoming to gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people.
Ford added, “Yesterday I had a conversation with someone and we were chuckling over the irony that New Hampshire has marriage equality before California. Those states are archetypically conservative and liberal, but it’s much more complicated than that. I hope we will begin to notice that the simplicity with which we view those terms will start to break down and we will start to see everyone’s understanding of the world is much more complicated.”
UUA President William G. Sinkford issued a statement Wednesday in support of New Hampshire's new marriage law, saying, “I am overjoyed that New Hampshire has joined the growing number of states with inclusive marriage laws. This is another victory for civil rights in America. More and more fair-minded citizens believe that same-sex couples and their families deserve legal recognition and protection, and that conviction is cause for joy and celebration.”
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Donald E. Skinner was the founding editor of the InterConnections newsletter for congregational leaders and a senior editor of UU World from 1998 until his retirement in 2014. He is a member of the Shawnee Mission Unitarian Universalist Church in Lenexa, Kansas.