CONCORD, N.H. – New Hampshire moved closer Wednesday to joining neighboring Vermont and a handful of other states in approving civil unions for same-sex couples.
The state House of Representatives voted 243-129 to give same-sex couples the same rights, responsibilities, and obligations as married couples. Same-sex unions from other states would be recognized if they were legal in the state where they were performed.
Supporters pushed a message of equality. "Help our daughters, friends, sons and neighbors live their lives the way I believe we all want to live with the people we love — in peace and dignity," Democratic Rep. Bette Lasky said.
Opponents, including Republican Rep. Maureen Mooney, said restricting civil unions to same-sex couples amounted to discrimination against heterosexual couples, roommates and others who might want to share legal benefits as a couple. Democrats called it an attempt to confuse the issue.
The bill now goes to the Senate, where Republican Bob Clegg has proposed legalizing "contractual cohabitation" as an alternative. His bill would give gays and other adults who don't choose to marry the same legal rights as married couples.
Gov. John Lynch opposes same-sex marriage but has avoided taking a position on civil unions.
"I will weigh in on it once I make up my mind on it," he said Wednesday.
Vermont, New Jersey and Connecticut allow civil unions. California authorizes domestic partnerships with benefits similar to civil unions.
Massachusetts is the only state that allows gays to marry.