Wednesday, December 26, 2007

New Hampshire and Oregon begin Same-Sex Civil Unions on January 1

January 1 will usher in laws in states at opposite sides of the country that provide rights for same-sex couples.

In New Hampshire, dozens of gay and lesbian couples will herald the New Year by having civil unions. A special mass civil union ceremony is planned for midnight January 1 on the Statehouse steps.

Other couples will have ceremonies in towns across the state.

A new license was created for civil unions and became available at local clerk's offices in towns earlier this month.

New Hampshire is the fourth state to grant civil unions after New Jersey, Connecticut and Vermont. Neighboring Massachusetts in 2004 became the only state to allow gay marriage.

The law was passed earlier this year and signed into law in May by Gov. John Lynch.

Couples entering civil unions will have the same state rights, responsibilities and obligations as married couples. Same-sex unions from other states also would be recognized if they were legal in the state where they were performed.

New Hampshire officials are estimating 3,500 to 4,000 couples will get civil unions in 2008. That's roughly double the 1,704 unions performed in Vermont in 2000, the first year they were offered.

In Oregon a state domestic partner registry will formally come into existence on January 1.

The law allows same-sex couples and opposite-sex couples unable to marry to form legally recognized partnerships.

Couples who register will be guaranteed the right to visit partners in hospital and make medical decisions, file joint state tax returns, and have joint health insurance plans or take sick leave to care for their partners.

The law was passed after a legal battle for gay marriage failed.

The issue of same-sex marriage in the state arose in March 2004 when Multnomah County began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

Soon after, the county was ordered to stop, but not before 3,000 marriage licenses had been granted.

The constitutional amendment, known as Measure 36, was passed that November.

In 2005 the state Supreme Court ruled the amendment legal and efforts to enact the domestic partner registry began.

January 1 also will mark a second LGBT law coming into effect. That measure will a bar discrimination against gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgendered people in housing, employment, public accommodation, education and public services statewide.

Source [365Gay]

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