Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD) applauded a bill signed by New Hampshire Governor Maggie Hassan last week that fixes several legal gaps and obstacles for same-sex couples who married or who plan to marry in the state. Although New Hampshire passed a marriage equality bill in 2009, and enacted it on January 1, 2010, problems remained in ensuring equal treatment of same-sex couples who married or sought to marry in the state.

“When it passed the marriage equality act, the legislature intended for same-sex married couples to be treated just like different-sex married couples,” said Janson Wu, GLAD Senior Staff Attorney.  “Unfortunately, because of conflicting laws, that has not always been the case.  We applaud Governor Hassan and the bill’s lead sponsor, Senator Bette Lasky, for their work on this important bill.”

Most importantly for non-New Hampshire same-sex couples, the bill, SB 394, repeals the state’s “reverse evasion law,” which had prohibited out-of-state couples from marrying in New Hampshire if their home state would not recognize the marriage. Until the passage of SB 394, New Hampshire was only one of five states remaining that had a reverse evasion law left on its books. For those out-of-state couples who nonetheless were able to marry in New Hampshire, this retroactive repeal removes any legal uncertainty about the validity of their marriage. Going forward, any same-sex couple can come to New Hampshire to marry, regardless of where they live.

In addition, the new law assures that if a New Hampshire couple had married in another state before same-sex couples could marry in New Hampshire (January 1, 2010), the state will consider the starting date of the marriage to be the date the marriage was solemnized.

The law also clarifies that all New Hampshire’s family, marriage and divorce laws

apply equally to same-sex and different-sex couples, regardless of any gendered language

that might still remain in the law. Finally, N.H. couples who had entered into a civil union in another state no longer have to dissolve that civil union first before they are allowed to marry the same person in New Hampshire.

GLAD, which worked with Senator Lasky on the legislation, has developed an FAQ about this law that may be of interest to you and your readers as you continue to report on this issue. The FAQ can be read here.

In 2009, GLAD worked with local organizations to pass the marriage equality historic bill.