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N.H. legalizes gay marriage

Associated Press

New Hampshire became the sixth state to legalize gay marriage Wednesday in a move that reflected the state’s changing demographics from reliably Republican and conservative to younger and more liberal.

After the state Senate and House passed key language on religious rights, Gov. John Lynch -- who personally opposes gay marriage -- signed the legislation.

Lynch, a Democrat, had promised a veto if the law didn’t clearly spell out that churches and religious groups would not be forced to officiate at gay marriages or provide other services. Legislators made the changes.

“Today, we are standing up for the liberties of same-sex couples by making clear that they will receive the same rights, responsibilities -- and respect -- under New Hampshire law,” Lynch said.

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Massachusetts, Connecticut, Maine, Vermont and Iowa already allow gay marriage, though opponents hope to overturn Maine’s law with a public vote.

California briefly allowed gay marriage before Proposition 8 banned it in November. A state Supreme Court ruling lets married same-sex couples stay married.

Lynch said it was time for the federal government to extend full equal rights to same-sex couples.

The New Hampshire law will take effect Jan. 1, exactly two years after the state began recognizing civil unions.

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