New Hampshire becomes 5th state to legalize same-sex marriage....
A nice way to start off the New Year!
Jeffry Burr and Neil Blair are just hours from their wedding, but there are no typical prenuptial jitters. After all, this is the third time they've exchanged vows.
They first committed to each other before scores of relatives and friends on June 24, 2006, in an emotional ceremony that didn't even count under New Hampshire law. Then, at 12:01 a.m. on Jan. 1, 2008, the first moment they were legally able to do so, they became civilly committed in a more subdued ceremony.
This time, the two will finally be legally married Friday, when New Hampshire becomes the fifth state to allow gay couples to wed.
Instead of a $5,000 weekend celebration like they had in 2006, they'll have a brief rereading of their earlier vows, pop the cork on some champagne and have dinner together.
"It's the third time," Blair said. "How excited are you supposed to be?"
The ceremony is more about pronouncing their civil equality than restating their commitment to each other, they say.
"It's a right that's been afforded to us, and it's our responsibility to take advantage of it," Blair said.
Burr and Blair, of Franconia, don't legally need to hold a marriage ceremony. By law, their civil union — and any other civil unions still valid — would convert to a marriage in 2011 if they did nothing, or they could expedite the status change by filing marriage paperwork with their town clerk during 2010.
The marriage law grants no new rights to gays, who two years ago won the right to civil unions, but it eliminates the separate status so both heterosexual and homosexual couples will be considered married.
Democratic Gov. John Lynch, who personally opposes gay marriage, signed the legislation after lawmakers passed key language affirming religious rights. The law spells out that churches and religious groups can't be forced to officiate at gay marriages or provide other services.