N.H. same-sex couples prepare to marry

by Peter Cassels
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Monday Dec 14, 2009

A new era begins in New Hampshire on Jan. 1 when gays and lesbians can begin to legally marry.

Although Gov. John Lynch said he personally opposes marriage for same-sex couples, he signed legislation into law on June 3 that will allow gays and lesbians to tie the knot.

Marriage will replace civil unions, which have been legal in the state since Jan. 1, 2008. Couples who have civil unions can choose to convert them to marriages by filling out paperwork with their local governments. If they do nothing, their civil unions will still convert to marriages on Jan. 1, 2011, and couples can then obtain marriage licenses.

City and town clerks began to distribute applications in October.

The Boston-based Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders has published How to Get Married in New Hampshire that covers what couples need to know.

Officials expect January to be a busy month for weddings Couples with whom EDGE spoke said they don't plan to marry on Jan. 1, but rather soon after the new year.

Leah and Elizabeth Richards of Durham had a civil union in a Feb. 2008. At the time, Elizabeth was pregnant with their son Finley and she gave birth to him the following June. The couple is planning a marriage celebration dinner with friends in January, but will not have another ceremony.

Leah Richards, who is a residence hall director at the University of New Hampshire, said Finley was a major reason the couple decided to have a civil union.

"Without it, I wouldn't have been on the birth certificate, so it did save potential trouble," she said. "We decided we wanted to take advantage of a civil union as quickly as possible in case they went away. We largely did it because it made a huge difference for our family. It was a clear shift for them."

She said she feels a legal marriage will end the complications she contends civil unions have periodically caused the couple.

"People really don't know what a civil union is," Leah Richards added. "Every time we had to fill out a form, we had to constantly explain our relationship. For example, forms say 'single or married.' We're not married. We're in a civil union, but as soon as we leave the state, it doesn't exist. Even at the university, they had to create a separate category for us."

The couple has six copies of their civil union certificate. And they keep one in their car case of an emergency.

A justice of the peace joined Daniel Innis and Douglas Palardy in a civil union Oct. 15 at Prescott Park in Portsmouth, where they own the Ale House Inn. Innis also is dean of UNH's Whittemore School of Business and Economics. They've been together three and a half years.

"My partner did not want to get 'married,' per se," Innis told EDGE in an e-mail. "He wanted the civil union but has no concerns with it becoming marriage. His view is that the straight world has screwed up marriage so he did not want that title added to his relationship. I did not care either way, so went along with him. It is a great compromise for us in that he gets what he wants with the civil union and I am happy because it will become a marriage soon. We did not want to wait under any circumstance. It was time, and we wanted to make it official."

The couple sent out announcements after their civil union and plan a "big party" in January or February to celebrate.

State Rep. Robert Thompson [D-Manchester] will marry his partner Mike Jacobsen at the Universal Unitarian Church of Manchester on Jan. 2. They will hold a post-wedding reception at the Club Canadian in the Queen City. The couple entered into a civil union at the same Manchester church two years ago.

"We would rather there be some spirituality to it rather than the frivolity" of New Year's," Jacobsen said.

Thompson played a key role in the passage of the marriage bill in the House, where he serves on the Judiciary Committee.

"The bill came through my committee so I had to deal with all the testimony," he told EDGE. "It came out of the committee without a recommendation by a tie vote of 10 to 10. One Republican voted for it and a couple of Democrats voted against it."

Thompson further explained he feels politics played a factor.

"Some people have to worry about voters in their districts. I don't have to worry about the social issues," he said. "My constituents were more worried about how much money I'm taking out of their pocket."

House Speaker Terie Norelli [D-Portsmouth] and other leaders helps to ensure the bill's passage.

Thompson also talked with several of his colleagues who had planned to vote against marriage.

"One gentleman said, 'I couldn't vote for your bill.' I told him to talk to his family about it," he recalled. "After they discussed it at dinner that night, he told me he was going to vote in favor of it."

Peter Cassels is a recipient of the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association’s Excellence in Journalism award. His e-mail address is


  • , 2009-12-14 12:20:45

    It’s time. Onward, Joe Mustich, Justice of the Peace, Washington, Connecticut, USA.

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