A New Mexico Supreme Court ruling
handed down Thursday joins the state with 16 others and the District
of Columbia in allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry.
The court in October heard arguments in
a case that sought to clarify whether gay couples are allowed to
marry in the state.
The case has its roots in Dona Ana
County, where county clerk Lynn Ellins in August announced that New
Mexico's marriage laws, which are phrased in a gender-neutral manner,
do not prohibit gay couples from marrying and independently began
issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Seven counties,
representing nearly 60 percent of the state's population, joined Dona
Ana in issuing such licenses, some by court order.
The state's 33 clerks joined in asking
the state's highest court to clarify the issue.
its 31-page ruling, the court ruled that prohibiting gay couples
from marrying “is not substantially related to the governmental
interests advanced by the parties opposing same-gender marriage or to
the purposes we have identified.”
“Therefore, barring individuals from
marrying and depriving them of the rights, protections, and
responsibilities of civil marriage solely because of their sexual
orientation violates the Equal Protection Clause under Article II,
Section 18 of the New Mexico Constitution.”
“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
ACLU-New Mexico Legal Director Laura
Schauer Ives praised the ruling as “historic.”
“As a state, we have always strived
to treat all families with dignity and respect, and today's decision
allowing loving, committed same-sex couples to marry continues that
tradition,” Ives said. “The more than 1000 same-sex couples who
have already married in New Mexico can now rest certain in knowing
their marriages will be recognized and respected by our states.”
New Mexico Unites for Marriage is
Day rallies to take place today in three cities, including
Albuquerque (6 PM at Morning Side Park), Las Cruces (3:30 PM at First
Christian Church), and Santa Fe (6 PM at the Supreme Court Building).