The US state of New Hampshire, the site of a feverish battle between presidential hopefuls ahead of its early nominating vote next week, joined Tuesday the handful of states to grant formal civil unions to same sex couples.
The law, which took effect with the arrival of 2008, "recognizes the civil union between one man and another man or one woman and another woman."
It grants rights to couples previously denied them because they cannot marry, including inheritance and child custody. The unions are not called marriages, however, and the law specifically allows clergy to refuse to perform them.
According to the homosexual rights group Human Rights Campaign, only five other states allow same-sex marriage or provide the same rights through civil unions or domestic partnerships: Massachusetts, Vermont, Connecticut, California, and New Jersey.
Oregon was due to offer domestic partnerships effective Tuesday, but a federal judge blocked the law from taking effect pending the outcome of legal challenges.
© 2008 Agence France Presse.