New Mexico Attorney General Gary King on Monday told the New Mexico Supreme Court that a law prohibiting gay couples from marrying is unconstitutional.

“New Mexico's guarantee of equal protection to its citizens demands that same-sex couples be permitted to enjoy the benefits of marriage in the same way and to the same extent as other New Mexico citizens,” King said in filing with the court.

The court had asked King's office to respond to a lawsuit filed by longtime partners Alexander Hanna and Von Hudson, who sued the state after they were denied a license to marry. The suit asks the court to order Santa Fe County Clerk Geraldine Salazar to issue the couple a marriage license.

New Mexico is the only state in the country that neither recognizes nor prohibits the recognition of gay couples. The New Mexico Constitution's definition of marriage makes no mention of gender. However, the state's application for a marriage license includes spaces to list the bride and the groom, terms King, a Democrat who is planning a bid for governor, has previously said are “gender specific.”

King, however, also said in his filing that the court should deny the couple's request because the lawsuit wasn't properly before the high court. Plaintiffs filed their case directly with the high court, bypassing the usual process of working up the legal system.