Conservative groups in New Hampshire are voicing concerns over the legalisation of same-sex unions.

Governor John Lynch yesterday signed the new bill that will make civil partnerships available to gay New Hampshire couples from January 2008.

The right-wing group Conserve NH gathered a petition of 900 signatures urging Gov. Lynch not to sign the bill.

Paul Nagy, chairman of Conserve NH, said that the opponents to the bill had not been able to give their opinions fairly during the legislative process.

For this reason, the group will now campaign to have the legislation repealed.

Mr. Nagy told The New York Times : “We’re not going to sit back.

“What I have said is that this is needless legislation and it’s a steppingstone.

“Make no mistake about that; that the next step for the homosexual lobby is marriage.”

Many Republicans have made clear their opposition to the bill.

Senator Sam Brownback, Kansas, said: “This is a massive social experiment whose early results have been quite harmful to families and children,” according to ConcordMonitor.com

Gov. Lynch has previously spoken against same-sex unions, but at a ceremony in his chambers at the New Hampshire statehouse, the second-term democrat said:

“I do not believe that this bill threatens marriage.

“I believe that this is a matter of conscience and fairness.”

The campaign for greater equality certainly shows no signs of stopping.

The New Hampshire Freedom to Marry Coalition made the following statement:

“The legislature passed this bill not because they were legally required to, but because it has the support of New Hampshire citizens.

“We’ve made real progress – and history. But our work has not ended.

“There is still a ways to go before we achieve full equality in New Hampshire, and we must work to educate our fellow citizens about the rights and limitations of civil unions – what they mean for businesses, families and communities.”

New Hampshire gay Episcopal leader Bishop Gene Robinson attended the ceremony and supported the bill.

He said that New Hampshire priests would be allowed to decide individually whether to perform civil unions.

Bishop Robinson plans to enter a civil union with his partner next year.

He told The New York Times :

“I feel that it’s a huge step forward for fairness and equality for all the citizens of New Hampshire and really is an affirmation of the very conservative values that we hold here.

“This will support gay and lesbian families the way marriage supports heterosexual families.”

New Hampshire is now the fourth state to allow same-sex civil unions.

Vermont, Connecticut and New Jersey have already passed similar legislation.