On June 3, 2009, New Hampshire became the 7th American state to offer full, legal marriage to same-sex couples. New Hampshire was the 3rd state to offer legal marriage, after Vermont and Maine (which was soon removed by ballot measure), without a court order, as well as having the governor sign it into being. The law became effective on January 1, 2010.
In March 2009, House Bill 436 which would recognize same-sex marriage equality passed the House of Representatives by a 186-179 vote.
In mid-April, a Senate committee voted 23 against the bill.
A poll released on April 28, 2009 showed that 55% of New Hampshire Voters support marriage for lesbian and gay couples, while 39% oppose. The poll was conducted by the University of New Hampshire Survey Center, and surveyed 491 New Hampshire voters from April 13-22, 2009. The poll found that 63% of Independent and 34% of Republican voters in New Hampshire support marriage. The poll also found that only 32% would be “bothered” if gay and lesbians could get a marriage license.
On April 29, 2009, the Senate voted 13-11, on second reading, in favor of an amended version of House Bill 436.
HB436 - final version contains the following excerpts:
AN ACT relative to civil marriage and civil unions.
“This bill eliminates the exclusion of same gender couples from marriage, affirms religious freedom protections of clergy with regard to the solemnization of marriage, and provides a mechanism by which same gender couples who have entered into a civil union prior to the enactment of this bill may obtain the legal status of marriage.”
Be it Enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives in General Court convened:
457:1-a - Equal Access to Marriage. Marriage is the legally recognized union of 2 people. Any person who otherwise meets the eligibility requirements of this chapter may marry any other eligible person regardless of gender. Each party to a marriage shall be designated “bride,” “groom,” or “spouse.”
457:37 - Affirmation of Freedom of Religion in Marriage. Members of the clergy as described in RSA 457:31 or other persons otherwise authorized under law to solemnize a marriage shall not be obligated or otherwise required by law to officiate at any particular civil marriage or religious rite of marriage in violation of their right to free exercise of religion protected by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution or by part I, article 5 of the New Hampshire constitution.
Civil Union Recognition; Obtaining Legal Status of Marriage
457:45 - Civil Union Recognition. A civil union legally contracted outside of New Hampshire shall be recognized as a marriage in this state, provided that the relationship does not violate the prohibitions of this chapter.
On June 3, 2009, the Senate’s third reading of the bill garnered a 14-10 vote in favor. The House followed later in the afternoon, voting 198-176.
Still later on the same day, Gov. John Lynch signed the bill, making it law.
Gov. John Lynch Press Release - June 3, 2009 - excerpts:
“New Hampshire’s great tradition has always been to come down on the side of individual liberties and protections.
“That tradition continues today.
“Two years ago in this room, I signed civil unions into law. That law gave same-sex couples in New Hampshire the rights and protections of marriage. And while civil unions was recognized as a step forward, many same-sex couples made compelling arguments that a separate system is not an equal system.
“They argued that what might appear to be a minor difference in wording to some, lessened the dignity and legitimacy of their families.”
“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.
“Today, we are also standing up for religious liberties. This legislation makes clear that we understand that certain faiths do not recognize same-sex marriage, and it protects them from having to participate in marriage-related activities that violate their fundamental religious principles.
“With the signing of this legislation today, New Hampshire will have taken every action possible to ensure that all families have equal rights to the extent that is possible under state law.
“Unfortunately, the federal government does not extend the same rights and protections that New Hampshire provides same-sex families, and that should change.”
“Most families in New Hampshire will awaken tomorrow, go to work and to school, and feel no impact from what we have accomplished today.
But for some, they will awaken tomorrow knowing we have said to them that they are equal, that they have the same rights to live and to love as everyone else.”
The major effort to gain marriage equality was provided by New Hampshire Freedom to Marry Coalition, with assistance from: Granite State Progress; American Friends Service Committee; Planned Parenthood of New England; NHCLU, SEA; GLAD; MassEquality; and the Human Rights Campaign.
- Two individuals.
- 18 or older. (The parents of opposite-sex couples can apply for a judicial waiver; females can marry if older than 13, and males if older than 14 years. If both parties are non-residents and younger than 18 they cannot be married in New Hampshire.)
- Each party must provide: Full Name, Address, Social Security Number, Race, Ancestry, Years of Education, Date and State of Birth, Father’s Full Name and State of Birth, and Mother’s Full Name (Maiden) and State of Birth.
- Provide a photo ID, such as a driver’s license.
- If 25 or younger, you may be asked to show a certified copy of your birth certificate.
- If a foreign birth certificate, it must be translated into English and notarized.
- If previously married, provide a divorce or death certificate.
- If one of the parties reside in the state, the marriage intentions must be filed with the clerk of the city or town where the resident lives. If both parties reside in New Hampshire in different cities/towns, the intentions can filed at either location. While the license may be used anywhere within the state, after the ceremony, it must be returned by the officiant to the clerk who issued the license. If license is not used, it must still be returned to clerk who issued it.
- Non-New Hampshire residents may marry, however, if both parties reside outside of state, the marriage intentions must be filed with the clerk of the same city or town where they plan to marry.
- $45 cash license fee.
- Licenses are issued by city or town clerks.
- Both parties must appear before the clerk to complete marriage application.
- The certification of the license cannot take place until the clerk has the completed copy of the marriage certificate from the officiant. This can take about two weeks.
- Witnesses are NOT required.
- The marriage license is valid for 90 days and must be used within New Hampshire.
- Officiants in a civil ceremony may be a justice of the peace, a bankruptcy judge, a U.S. magistrate judge. Or a religious ceremony may be officiated by any ordained “minister of the gospel,” who resides in the state, and is in “regular” standing with the denomination; by any member of the clergy who is not ordained, but is engaged in the service of the religious body to which he or she belongs, and who resides in the state, after being licensed by the secretary of state; or within his or her parish, by any minister residing out of the state, but having a pastoral charge wholly or partly in this state. Non-resident clergy need to receive a special license from the Secretary of State.
- After the ceremony, the officiant must return the filled-in license to the clerk within 6 working days.
Partial list of New Hampshire Clerk’s Offices:
- No blood test required.
- 3-day wait period (from the issuance of the license until the wedding takes place).
- Marriages contracted outside New Hampshire are recognized.
- No person shall marry his or her father, mother, father’s brother, father’s sister, mother’s brother, mother’s sister, son, daughter, brother, sister, son’s son, son’s daughter, daughter’s son, daughter’s daughter, brother’s son, brother’s daughter, sister’s son, sister’s daughter, father’s brother’s son, father’s brother’s daughter, mother’s brother’s son, mother’s brother’s daughter, father’s sister’s son, father’s sister’s daughter, mother’s sister’s son, or mother’s sister’s daughter.
- No person is allowed to marry more than one person at any given time.
- If you have a valid New Hampshire Civil Union, it automatically is considered to be a civil marriage.
- Marriage certificates cost $12 for the first copy, and $8 for subsequent copies issued at the same time.
Concord City, Concord - 603-225-8500
Here is a list of all New Hampshire cities and towns:
Coos County, Lancaster - 603-788-3391
Dover City, Dover - 603-743-6021
Exeter Town, Exeter - 603-778-0591
Hampstead Town, Hampstead - 603-329-4100
Haverville Town, Woodsville - 603-787-6200
Keene City, Keene - 603-352-0133
Laconia City, Laconia - 603-527-1265
Nashua City, Nashua - 603-589-3010
A person seeking a divorce may file a complaint for divorce in District Court under the following conditions:
More Divorce information:
- The filing spouse must be a resident for a least 1 year, or the grounds must have occurred in the state, and one of the spouses must be a resident for at least 1 year prior to filing.
- The divorce must be filed in a county in which either spouse resides.
- A No-Fault divorce may be granted if there are irreconcilable differences which caused the irremediable breakdown of the marriage.
- A Fault divorce may be granted under the following conditions:
- Extreme cruelty.
- Conviction of either party, in any state or federal district, of a crime punishable and imprisonment of at least one year.
- Seriously injuring a partner’s health or endanger reason.
- Absent and incommunicado for 2 years.
- Habitual drunkard for 2 years.
- Joining a religious sect or society which believes the marital relationship unlawful, and has refused to cohabit with the other for 6 months.
- When either party, without sufficient cause, and without the consent of the other, has abandoned and refused, for 2 years, to cohabit.
- Divorce filing fee $101.
- Child custody decisions are based on the best interests on the child.
- Property is usually divided equitably. Fault is a factor.
- Separate property is property acquired before marriage; by gift; by inheritance.
- An uncontested divorce could be final in 3-4 months, while a custody battle could take more than a year.
- Once the court issues a final decree, the divorce is effective. There is no waiting period following the decree.
Legal Marriage Rights and Responsibilities
- Emergency medical care and hospital visitation
- Economic protections upon death of a spouse, such as inheritance rights
- Burial, autopsies, and disposition of remains
- Wrongful death and other kinds of claims that depend upon spousal status
- Receive workers’ compensation benefits if a spouse dies in the workplace
- Health insurance and pension benefits for spouses of public employees
- May file joint state tax returns, take spousal deductions on state income taxes, and receive tax benefits when transferring interests in property
- Separation, divorce, and caring for any children of the couple
- Liability for your spouse’s debts
- Limitations on your ability to make decisions about your property and who will inherit from you
- Obligations to provide support for your spouse during both marriage and divorce
Warnings: Marriage Law Pitfalls
The armed services would likely consider marriage to a same-sex spouse as grounds for a discharge under its discriminatory policies towards lesbian and gay personnel.
Since the federal system does not recognize same-sex couples, or their legal marriages, getting married does not offer a route to applying for immigration.
There currently is no process that allows a same-sex partner to sponsor a partner for immigration to the U.S. There is no process that allows an individual to sponsor their same-sex partner to become a "Permanent Legal Resident." In the eyes of the American federal system, same-sex couples are legal strangers.
Non-New Hampshire Residents
Partners who are not New Hampshire citizens may be married in New Hampshire.
However, because many state laws forbid recognition of another state’s same-sex legal marriage license, a civil marriage license would have little or no legal meaning.
Also, it is possible that a New Hampshire couple would get married, then move elsewhere. While it is certain that the federal system will refuse to recognize the license, it is now known that most states will likewise refuse to recognize it.
In the Event of a Couple Parting
New Hampshire divorce requires a 1-year residency.
If you live in a state that does not honor your marriage — which may not be determined until requesting something usually triggered by a marriage license — the state courts will also be unlikely to grant you a divorce.
The ability to divorce is critical. Besides the emotional reasons to dissolve a no longer functioning union, there are legal entanglements to consider. For instance, should one of the partners form a new relationship, they would not be able to sign up their new partner for workplace benefits. Most employers require an affidavit that stipulates that the partners are not married to anyone else, or have another domestic partner.
Governments that offer Full Legal Marriage
South Africa (2005)
New Zealand (2013)
New Zealand (2013)
(England, Wales, Scotland) (2013)
United States (2015)
US States & Territories
New Hampshire (2009)
District of Columbia (2009)
New York (2011)
Rhode Island (2013)
New Jersey (2013)
New Mexico (2013)
Michigan (2014) - stayed pending legal challenge
Arkansas (2014) - stayed pending legal challenge
West Virginia (2014)
Kansas (2014) - stayed pending legal challenge
North Carolina (2014)
South Carolina (2014)
U.S. Supreme Court (June 26, 2015):
Ruling: All U.S. States must now
allow same-sex couples the
freedom of legal marriage.
Native American Tribes|
Coquille Tribe, Oregon (2009)
Mashantucket Pequot, Connecticut (2011)
Suquamish Tribe, Washington (2011)
Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation, Washington (2013)
Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe, Minnesota (2013)
Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians, Michigan (2013)
Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians, Michigan (2013)
Santa Ysabel Tribe, California (2013)
Confederated Tribes of the Colville Nation, Washington (2013)
Cheyenne, Oklahoma (2013)
Arapaho, Oklahoma (2013)
Leech Lake Tribal Court, Minnesota (2013)
Puyallup Tribe, Washington (2914)
Wind River Indian Reservation, Wyoming (2014)
Keweenaw Bay Indian Community, Michigan, (2014)
Colville Confederated Tribes, Washington (2014)
Central Council of Tlingit, Alaska (2015)
Haida Indian Tribes, Alaska (2015)