New Hampshire's civil union law took effect yesterday and so they went and got legally hitched. Yay!!
Boston Globe article
Gay N.H. couples celebrate, gain status in civil unions
By Noah Bierman
Globe Staff / January 2, 2008
PORTSMOUTH - Clad in jeans and loose-fitting sweaters, Rachel Gogan and Katie Raynes walked into the side room of a church basement yesterday and joined in a precedent-setting civil union ceremony.
And then they drove home to Dover for a quiet lunch.
The women, both in their mid-20s, were casual history-makers, among the first of about 100 couples in New Hampshire to unite under the state's civil union law that took effect yesterday. Their more formal and emotional, though unofficial, union took place in October, when friends and family gathered for a ceremony and party in Maine.
"We already had our wedding. This was the signing of our paperwork. The state's finally catching up with us," Gogan said.
New Hampshire became the fourth state to allow civil unions of same-sex couples. Just after midnight, the first 40 or so couples held ceremonies at the State House. Smaller ceremonies took place in other parts of the state throughout the day. By the afternoon, 11 couples, including Gogan and Raynes, were committed at South Church Unitarian Universalist Church in Portsmouth.
The Unitarian church celebration included members of the congregation, elected leaders, and others who supported the legislation. Congregants prayed and listened to speeches in the 184-year-old sanctuary upstairs while Julie Slayton Frank, a church administrator and justice of the peace, performed two-minute ceremonies in the small church library downstairs, lit by soft overhead bulbs and three candles.
Participants, friends, and family members gathered afterward for cake and punch in the main room of the church basement, decorated with rainbow crepe paper and streamers.
"With all the hoopla around civil unions, the mechanics of it are pretty simple," Frank said.
The couples brought licenses, obtained and signed at town halls before the New Year. Before signing off, Frank read a statement, something the law does not require: "By signing this paper, I bestow upon you the rights and responsibilities afforded to you by the state of New Hampshire and the blessing of South Church."
Many of those who gathered at the church called civil unions an intermediate step toward same-sex marriage. Political leaders cautioned them that they still have to work to preserve the new law, because it is likely to become a divisive issue in future elections.
State Senator Martha Fuller Clark, a Portsmouth Democrat and a member of the church, emphasized the long-term gains gays and lesbians have made toward acceptance.
She said her great-uncle was fired as a Harvard philosophy professor in 1910 because he was gay, and her husband's uncle jumped out of a building in 1954 because he felt the world had no place for a gay man.
"It's an extraordinary moment," she said.
Several couples who held commitment ceremonies yesterday said they felt support from friends and families, but wanted something more official to codify their relationships.
Debbi Lee, 51, and Debbie Covey-Lee, 54, joined in civil commitment to mark the anniversary of their religious ceremony in an Episcopal church, held in Portsmouth on New Years Day eight years ago.
"This seems like the perfect day to make it legal," Lee said.
Covey-Lee added, "I feel like we did it [previously] in front of God."
The couple said the new legal status could prove more than symbolic for gay and lesbian couples. Four years ago, Covey-Lee had an aneurysm rupture in her brain. The incident underscored the need for a legal relationship, they said.
Noah Bierman can be reached at email@example.com.
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