The New Hampshire Senate has approved a civil unions bill, which has now been sent to the state’s Governor.

Last week he indicated that he will sign the bill into law and it is set to come into force on January 1st 2008.

The state will become the fourth in the USA to allow such unions.

The bill previously passed the state’s House of Representatives by a margin of 2 to 1.

Today the Senate approved the bill by 14 votes to 10.

“New Hampshire has a proud history and tradition of taking the side of opposing discrimination where it occurs,” Governor John Lynch said last Friday.

“This bill will go a long way toward ensuring that.

“I believe it is a matter of conscience, fairness and preventing discrimination.”

The Episcopalian Bishop of New Hampshire, Gene Robinson, who is openly gay, gave evidence to the state legislature earlier this month supporting same-sex unions.

“This legislation simply has nothing do to with religious bodies and their affirmation or rejection of such unions in the civil realm,” Bishop Robinson told a state committee hearing.

“What we seek in the civil realm is the equal treatment by the state government in supporting this development of our relationship with the legal, financial, and societal underpinnings which are afforded married couples at the very moment they say ‘I do.'”

Massachusetts has legal same-sex marriage and Vermont, New Jersey, and Connecticut have allowed civil unions.