Saturday, January 2, 2010

NH and the Gay Yuletide

In their end of the year Conventional Wisdom watch Newsweek Magazine notes:

Gay marriage, coming to a state near you... but only if you live in New Hampshire.

I do live in New Hampshire! As the clock tripped over to 2010, gay marriage has come to a state very near and dear to me. Compared with our neighboring states, it has come with remarkably little screaming and fanfare.

In 2003 the Massachusetts Supreme Court issued their ruling that same-sex marriage was a constitutional requirement. A few years later, the Supreme Court in neighboring Vermont affirmed the right to Civil Unions. Both of these events were causes for celebration and signs of progress. Both events provoked an ugly backlash that highlighted the cultural divide and laid bare persistent ignorance and intolerance.

In 2007 New Hampshire passed its own Civil Union law. Last year we followed up, approving Same-Sex Marriage. These were not court mandates. In both cases they were laws passed and approved by the legislature and signed by the Governor.

From Massachusetts and Vermont we had already heard the apocalyptic predictions of destruction of marriage and imminent moral collapse. We had also seen that permitting same-sex couples to marry resulted in none of this. We saw the giddy, goofy couples smooching and celebrating recognition and rights the rest of us had taken for granted. There were voices of protest. But when the final votes were cast, same sex-marriage came to New Hampshire, via the ballot box, with a smile and a shrug. This morning the local paper carries the news of New Hampshire's first gay marriages. It's on page A7. After "MTA to hold 'exchange of information' meeting on York tolls".

It's a pleasure to see this state recognize civil rights for its gay and lesbian residents. I'm glad we can be one of the bright spots in the ongoing struggle for equality. It's unfortunate there aren't more new club members (Seriously. Maine. What happened?). New Hampshire hasn't always been at the vanguard. I remember, growing up, a game called Smear the Queer was a neighborhood favorite. We've come a long way.

But the march for equality continues. Federal law still does not acknowledge same sex marriages, civil unions, or any basic rights for gay couples. Our gay and lesbian soldiers are forced to live in secret even as they sacrifice to to defend our nation. Even in the Granite State there is more work to be done. New Hampshire's adoption laws have not yet been updated and lag behind. Legally married same-sex couples are not recognized as both being parents to their own children. These and other oversights and inequities need to be corrected before we can claim true equality.

The road may seem endless, but we can still stop and acknowledge how far we have come. I raise a toast to you, New Hampshire. Happy New Year.

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