New Hampshire’s new governor, who is gay, is still an atheist

NEW HAVEN, N.H. — New Hampshire Governor John Lynch, a Republican, has said he’s still an “atheist,” despite having been openly gay since entering office.

Lynch, who was elected in February, told The Associated Press in a statement that he had never made a “religious statement” and that his decision to come out came from a desire to be “a better person and to grow in this community.”

Lynch is the first gay governor in New Hampshire since the state’s constitution prohibited gay marriage in 1976.

Lynch was the first openly gay candidate to run for governor, but lost to Democrat Mike Dunaway.

The New Hampshire Union Leader reports Lynch had a rocky first few months in office, which he blamed on a “distraction” from his state’s opioid crisis.

He resigned from the state Senate in January amid an ethics probe into whether he violated state ethics rules by accepting a $30,000 campaign contribution from a business associate.

Lynch’s office said Thursday he plans to announce his retirement as governor at a news conference in New London.

He will be succeeded by state Sen. Jennifer Shultz, who will become governor.

The Associated Statesman newspaper reported that Lynch said he planned to retire from public service.

Lynch has not announced a successor for the state House of Representatives, which is controlled by Democrats.

His campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment from the AP.

The AP’s Jeff Pegues contributed to this report.