BOSTON (Reuters) - Gay and lesbian couples rushed to marry in New Hampshire on Friday when at the stroke of midnight it became the fifth U.S. state to allow same-sex marriage, reversing some setbacks for the polarizing national movement.
“I feel fabulous. It was wonderful, and it was historic,” said Linda Murphy, 50, a college administrator from southern New Hampshire who married Donna Swartwout, her partner of 19 years.
They were among 150 people gathered in the state capital of Concord, in temperatures of about 21 degrees Fahrenheit (-6 Celsius), to witness the marriages of about a dozen gay or lesbian couples by a justice of the peace as the New Year dawned.
New Hampshire passed its law in June amid an emotional national debate. President Barack Obama opposes gay marriage while supporting other gay rights.
The New England state joins Massachusetts, Vermont, Connecticut and Iowa in permitting full marriage equality for same-sex couples. Washington, D.C., is also on track for approval.
New York state lawmakers voted against gay marriage last month. In Maine, where a state law that would have allowed the nuptials, was turned back in a referendum in November. A same-sex marriage bill is foundering in New Jersey, and in California, gay marriage was overturned in a popular vote in 2008.
“People focus on the setbacks, but last year there was one state and now there are five states,” said Mo Baxley, executive director of the New Hampshire Freedom to Marry Coalition.
Murphy and Swartwout, who met in graduate school, had a commitment ceremony 11 years ago, but said the official marriage carried far more meaning.
“It was a reaffirmation of our love and our commitment, and for us, for the first time, a legal acknowledgment from our home state,” said Murphy. “Some day this will not even be a news story. It will just be a part of life.”
Editing by Daniel Trotta and Doina Chiacu