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Marriage & Relationships | Marriage | New Hampshire

New Hampshire Marriage Q&A

Can same-sex couples marry in New Hampshire?

Yes. On June 3, 2009, Governor Lynch signed a marriage equality bill (House Bill 436, An Act Relative to Civil Marriage and Civil Unions) that extended the right to marry to same-sex couples. The bill became effective January 1, 2010, simultaneously ending the availability of New Hampshire civil unions on the same date. On January 1, 2011, all existing New Hampshire civil unions were transformed into marriages.

Four years later, in Obergefell v. Hodges (135 S.Ct. 2584 (2015)), the U.S. Supreme Court made marriage equality a reality nationwide when it held that the U.S. Constitution guarantees same-sex couples the right to marry. GLAD’s own Mary Bonauto represented the plaintiffs during oral arguments. Post-Obergefell, all 50 states are required to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, and all states must respect the marriages of same-sex couples performed in other jurisdictions.

For more information about getting married in New Hampshire, consult GLAD’s publication, How to Get Married in New Hampshire.

Will New Hampshire respect my marriage? Will other states?

Yes. New Hampshire will respect the legal marriages of same-sex couples regardless of where the marriage was performed, just as all states will now respect the marriage of a same-sex couple married in New Hampshire.

Will the federal government respect my marriage?

Yes. Thanks to the recent demise of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in Windsor v. United States (133. S.Ct. 2675 (2013)), the federal government will recognize and respect the legal marriages of same-sex couples.

DOMA, a federal statute which defined marriage exclusively as the union between one man and one woman, once prevented same-sex spouses from accessing the 1000+ federal laws pertaining to marriage, including taxes, Social Security (including SSDI and SSI), immigration, bankruptcy, FMLA, federal student financial aid, Medicaid, Medicare, veteran’s benefits, and TANF. Happily, in 2013 the U.S. Supreme Court struck down DOMA as unconstitutional. GLAD filed the first challenge to DOMA in 2009, Gill v. OPM (699 F.Supp.2d 374 (2010)), and the legal framework developed in that case was used in many subsequent cases, Windsor included. GLAD was also responsible for coordinating the Windsor amici briefs.

Unfortunately, one issue that has yet to be definitively resolved by Windsor and Obergefell concerns spousal benefits and self-insured health plans. While New Hampshire state law prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation, self-insured health plans are governed by federal law. Title VII, the federal anti-discrimination statute, only prohibits discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin—sexual orientation is not explicitly included. As a result, some self-insured employers claim they can legally deny benefits to same-sex spouses.

Luckily, this issue is far from settled. Recently, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) took the position that Title VII’s prohibition against ‘sex discrimination’ encompasses discrimination based on sexual orientation (see ____ v. Foxx, Agency No. 2012-24738-FAA-3 (July 15, 2015)).

If your employer is discriminating against you in spousal healthcare benefits on the basis of sexual orientation, contact GLAD Answers.

What happens if we need to end our marriage?

After Obergefell v. Hodges, same-sex spouses everywhere should be able to dissolve their marriages on the same terms as different-sex spouses. New Hampshire explicitly applies its divorce statutes to same-sex couples (see, e.g., In re Munson & Beal, 2016 N.H. LEXIS 180 (2016) (applying divorce statute to a same-sex couple)).

However, spouses should note that when New Hampshire courts divide marital property and award alimony, one of the factors a judge considers is length of marriage (NH RSA 458:16-a, II(a); 19, IV). Unfortunately for spouses whose partnership pre-dates marriage equality, the length of the marriage may not accurately reflect the true length of the relationship, resulting in an unbalanced division of assets. A recent New Hampshire Supreme Court case, In the Matter of Munson & Beal (2016 N.H. LEXIS 180 (2016)), addressed this issue and ruled that a judge may consider premarital cohabitation when dividing marital property. GLAD submitted an amicus brief in the case, Munson Amicus Brief.

If you are going through divorce proceedings in New Hampshire and believe your division of assets may be unfairly affected by length of marriage, contact Glad Answers.

What is happening with New Hampshire’s civil unions?

Effective January 1, 2010, New Hampshire stopped issuing civil union licenses. Effective January 1, 2011, all existing New Hampshire civil unions were converted into marriages by operation of law (NH RSA 457:46, II). Civil unions from other states were not converted into marriages, but will still be recognized and afforded all the same state protections and responsibilities as marriage.

For additional information about New Hampshire marriage and civil unions see GLAD’s publication, How to Get Married in New Hampshire.