New Hampshire Legalizes Gay Marriage

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Number six is now official.


CONCORD, New Hampshire – New Hampshire became the sixth state to legalize gay marriage after the Senate and House passed key language on religious rights and Gov. John Lynch — who personally opposes gay marriage — signed the legislation Wednesday afternoon.

After rallies outside the Statehouse by both sides in the morning, the last of three bills in the package went to the Senate, which approved it 14-10 Wednesday afternoon.

Cheers from the gallery greeted the key vote in the House, which passed it 198-176. Surrounded by gay marriage supporters, Lynch signed the bill about an hour later.

The new law will take effect January 1, 2010, but already states are seeing an economic boost as a result…

The phones started ringing at the Timberholm Inn in Stowe, Vt., in April, as soon as lawmakers voted to override a gubernatorial veto and allow same-sex marriage in the state. “It doesn’t go into effect till Sept. 1, but people are thinking ahead,” says the inn’s co-owner, Susan Barnes. “We’ve got two same-sex weddings booked for October.” Those bookings are good news for Barnes, who says the gay-friendly inn takes in a “couple of thousand” dollars with every wedding it hosts. And they are part of the reason some same-sex-wedding advocates are now pointing out a new legalization angle: the economic payoff.

In the five years since legalizing same-sex marriage, Massachusetts has gained $111 million in spending from gay weddings, according to a new study published by UCLA’s Williams Institute, which studies sexual-orientation law and public policy. “That’s money buying flowers, hotels, caterers, hiring a band—all the things that go into a wedding,” explains M. V. Lee Badgett, a coauthor of the study.

Typically, same-sex couples spent about $7,400 per wedding, says Badgett, an economist who is also director of UMass Amherst’s Center for Public Policy & Administration, and one in 10 couples spent more than $20,000. And then there were the wedding guests: “We estimated that each same-sex couple was associated with $1,600 in hotel-occupancy tax revenue,” she says.

Next up: New York and New Jersey.

More as it develops…