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Same-sex couples sue to marry in New Mexico

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Two same-sex couples seeking the freedom to marry today filed a lawsuit in Albuquerque’s district court after they applied for and were denied marriage licenses by the Bernalillo County Clerk.

The lawsuit claims that the New Mexico marriage statutes and New Mexico Constitution do not bar same-sex couples from marrying, and therefore the State of New Mexico should issue civil marriage licenses to any same-sex couple who applies for one.

The couples are represented by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the ACLU of New Mexico, the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR), the Albuquerque law firm Sutin, Thayer & Browne, APC, and local cooperating attorneys Maureen Sanders, Lynn Perls and Kate Girard.

New Mexico is the only state in the country that does not either explicitly recognize same-sex relationships through marriage or civil unions or ban recognition of same-sex relationships by statute or constitutional amendment.

The couples are Miriam Rand, 63, and Ona Porter, 66; and Rose Griego, 47, and Kim Kiel, 44. Miriam and Ona currently live in Albuquerque, while Rose and Kim reside in Santa Fe.

“Ona and I have been together for over 25 years,” Rand said. “Together, we raised children, we took care of our mothers when they were dying and are currently raising our granddaughter. We are family; we love and care for one another through good times and bad. We want our community to recognize our love and commitment for what it is: a marriage.”

“Marriage matters,” Griego said. “Kim and I have already made a lifelong commitment to one another, but marriage says ‘family’ in a way that no other word can. It’s important to us that the State of New Mexico — our home, the place where we live, work and raised our family—recognizes and respects our relationship.”

Laura Schauer Ives, ACLU of New Mexico legal director, added:

“The time has come for New Mexico to treat same-sex couples with the same dignity and respect we afford opposite-sex couples. This means allowing loving, committed same-sex couples the freedom to marry. We believe that the New Mexico Constitution guarantees same-sex couples this freedom. Today we ask the courts to clarify and confirm that same-sex couples may seek happiness and protect their families within the institution of civil marriage in New Mexico.”

Shannon Minter, National Center for Lesbian Rights legal director, noted:

“New Mexico has a long history of respecting individual freedom and supporting families. These couples want the same opportunity to marry and to take responsibility for one another as other couples.”

Elizabeth Gill, staff attorney with the ACLU Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender Project, said:

“There is growing support nationwide for the freedom of to marry, with over fifty percent of Americans now saying they support marriage for same-sex couples,” said . “It is time for this fundamental freedom to be a reality for same-sex couples in New Mexico.”

Read more about the case and the complaint HERE.

HRC reacts

Today the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) celebrated a new marriage equality case filed by the American Civil Liberties Union and the National Center for Lesbian Rights in New Mexico court.

An affirmative ruling would make the state the first in the American Southwest to embrace marriage equality and the 10th state overall to extend this fundamental right to all committed and loving couples.

“The fact is that there is no law on the books in New Mexico that says gay and lesbian couples shouldn’t have the same rights as everyone else, and even if there were, denying them equal marriage is fundamentally unjust,” HRC president Chad Griffin said. “Regardless of where you live, all people should have the ability to marry the person they love, and I hope the courts in New Mexico act quickly to bring marriage equality to the fair-minded Land of Enchantment.”

The filing of the case comes days after the mayor of Santa Fe urged New Mexico county clerks to issue marriage licenses to gay and lesbian couples due to the absence any restrictive state law.

Freedom to Marry reaction

Thalia Zepatos, Freedom to Marry’s director of public engagement and an adviser to New Mexico groups working toward marriage, said:

“This suit illustrates what New Mexico residents, and all Americans, know deep down: There’s no good reason to exclude gay and lesbian couples from marriage. We hope New Mexico will embrace this opportunity to make families stronger and reaffirm the constitutional ideal of equality. Freedom to Marry is proud to be partnering with Equality New Mexico on a public education campaign to build support for marriage as the legal teams make the case for equality in the courts.”