Concord, N.H., fourth in nation to legalize civil unions

An historic vote in Concord means New Hampshire will be the fourth state in the nation to legalize civil unions. When the new law takes effect Jan. 1, 2008, the granite state joins Vermont and two other states extending legal rights to same-sex couples.

Massachusetts has gone one step further legalizing gay marriage. As Scott Spradling reports, the vote came with just one notable outburst.

Just before the vote, Democratic party chair Ray Buckley yelled at a man behind him to keep his thoughts to himself. State police quieted the gallery and the vote was taken. By a vote of 14 to 10, civil unions passed. It goes to the governor who will sign it into law.

"House Bill 437 is about fairness and equality," Senator Joe Foster said.

Foster also said civil unions will end discrimination against gay couples by extending rights like inheritance and hospital visits. It includes responsibilities like alimony and child support if the union dissolves, but according to opponents this is gay marriage because the rights are the same. Some say complications weren't considered.

"If there's a man or woman who wants to join the National Guard, and they are in a civil union, they can't join the National Guard," said Senator Joe Kenney.

Prime Sponsor Jim Splaine, who's openly gay, was pleased with the outcome.

"I haven't found a significant other, but this gives opportunities to thousands of others," Splaine said.

Critics call it morally wrong, and predict a lawsuit.

"When the male and female connect, they make light, male and male don't. Society is forgetting what light really is," Peter Mehegan said.

New Hampshire is the first state in the United States to enact civil unions without a court mandate. In the November 2004 elections Kentuckians voted voted in favor of a proposed amendment outlawing same-sex marriages and civil unions. With 99 percent of precincts reporting, the amendment had 1,192,315 votes for it, or 74 percent, and 408,496 votes against it, or 26 percent.


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