New Hampshire has now become the 6th state to legalize same sex marriage, with Massachusetts, Connecticut, Iowa, Vermont, and Maine as its predecessors. In addition, New Jersey and California allow civil unions. The effect of the New Hampshire decision is that the state will now provide gay couples the same rights and privileges of heterosexual couples. By allowing gay marriage in lieu of a civil union, New Hampshire is providing gay couples additional protections they do not receive in New Jersey or California, as the couple may refer to each other as “spouse” not partner. This is especially significant to those in the military, who are essentially prohibited from obtaining health and other benefits for their civil union partners, as the result would be outing themselves.
The laws of New Jersey recognize gay unions, whether marriage, civil unions or domestic partnerships, so long as the rights and privileges under the laws of the state granting such a union are substantially similar to those provided to a married heterosexual couple. Thus, not only will a same sex marriage or civil union from New Hampshire be recognized here, but should the marriage or civil union disintegrate, New Jersey will also provide a forum for dissolution by way of divorce if the jurisdictional requirements are met.
New Jersey is currently considering a new law to allow gay marriage in lieu of civil unions. A competing measure has also been introduced to constitutionally ban gay marriage in the state, which has been met with little support.
Which state is next? Possibly New York, which passed legislation legalizing gay marriage in the state assembly in April of this year.