New Mexico Becomes 17th State to Legalize Same-sex Marriage
New Mexico has become the 17th state (including the District of Colombia) to legalize gay marriage after the NM Supreme Court ruled it unconstitutional to deny marriage licenses to gay and lesbian couples, the Associated Press is reporting.
“We hold that the State of New Mexico is constitutionally required to allow same-gender couples to marry and must extend to them the rights, protections, and responsibilities that derive from civil marriage under New Mexico law,” the court ruling said.
There were no marriage statues in New Mexico specifically outlawing same-sex marriage, according to Justice Edward L. Chavez in todays ruling, but the whole of New Mexico law had hindered same-gender couples in their ability to marry.
This will be the first change to New Mexico marriage law since 1961. Prior to Thursday, marriage applications had sections for male and female applicants. State Attorney Generals had effectively used this law to prohibit same-sex marriage.
“Accordingly, New Mexico may neither constitutionally deny same-gender couples the right to marry nor deprive them of the rights, protections and responsibilities of marriage laws, unless the proponents of the legislation – the opponents of same-gender marriage – prove that the discrimination caused by the legislation is ‘substantially related to an important government interest,’” Chavez wrote.
Earlier this year a district court judge ruled it is a violation of the New Mexico constitution to deny same-sex couples the right to marry. The judge cited a 1972 constitution amendment banning discrimination “on account of the sex of any person,” according to the Guardian.
The path to the decision made today by the state Supreme Court began in September when 31 county clerks filed a petition with the state Supreme Court today for “a decisive, statewide ruling on the legality of same-sex marriage,” according to the Albuquerque Journal.
In August, a county clerk in Southern New Mexico began allowing unions between same-sex couples. Eight of the 33 counties in New Mexico are now issuing marriage licenses to gay couples.
New Mexico Attorney General, Gary King, said he had yet to look over the court rulings, but same-sex couples didn’t need to worry about getting a marriage license in New Mexico.
“Based on what I understand about the opinion, now in every county in New Mexico clerks will be required to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples,” King said. “And certainly it’s been our position that if you’re validly married in New Mexico under those provisions, that your marriage has the same legal effect as marriage between a heterosexual couple.”
Gay rights activists can mark up today as a victory in New Mexico, where progress had previously slow.
“This truly is a historic and joyful day for New Mexico,” ACLU-New Mexico Legal Director Laura Schauer Ives said in a statement. “The more than 1,000 same-sex couples w ho have already married in New Mexico can now rest certain knowing their marriages will be recognized and respected by our state.”
The American Civil Liberties Union and the National Center for Lesbian Rights represented the plaintiffs in the case. According to the Associated Press, they argued gay marriage must be allowed because of constitutional guarantees of equal protection under the law and a state constitutional prohibition against discrimination based on sexual orientation.
“The court is entirely correct that denying lesbian and gay couples the same rights as everyone else is fundamentally unjust,” said HRC President Chad Griffin. “Regardless of where you live, all people should have the ability to marry the person they love, and now the legislature must not do anything to turn back the clock in the Land of Enchantment.”
I am originally from a small town in North Carolina and have recently moved to Richmond. Meaning I am a novice to the ways of Richmond life, but from what I have seen it is a culturally rich environment that I look forward to diving into. My daily hustle consists of playing bass, reading, and hunting for new music. This summer I will be interning with RVA Magazine and GayRVA.com. In the fall I will be transferring to Virginia Commonwealth University where I will major in journalism.
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