(Editor's note: Also today, San Miguel County and Valencia County clerks began issuing marriage licenses to same-gender couples.)
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – Another day, another step forward for same-gender marriage in New Mexico.
This morning, dozens of gay and lesbian couples began lining up in the Bernalillo County Clerk’s Office in Albuquerque to get marriage licenses, a day after a second state district court judge ruled that New Mexico’s Constitution forbids discrimination for sexual orientation.
District Judge Alan Malott ordered clerks in Santa Fe County and Bernalillo County to issue licenses to gay and lesbian couples who want to marry, effective today.
The marriage issue has heated up in New Mexico since it is the only state in the U.S. without any laws banning same-gender marriage or permitting it.
Last week, the Doña Ana County Clerk began issuing same-gender marriage licenses without court order. Since then, several lawsuits have been filed on behalf of same-gender couples who want to marry, including a terminally ill New Mexico woman who was granted her dying wish to marry her partner.
In responding to a lawsuit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the ACLU of New Mexico, the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR), and local attorneys on behalf of same-sex couples seeking the freedom to marry in New Mexico, Judge Malott said that denying same-gender couples access to civil marriage violates the New Mexico Constitution.
The judge issued a judgment against the two county clerks and the State of New Mexico declaring that, to the extent New Mexico law prevents same-gender couples from marrying, “those prohibitions are unconstitutional and unenforceable.”
Some legal scholars believe the Judge Malott all but said that same-gender marriage is legal. Supporters and detractors of marriage equality will be monitoring whether the judge’s ruling will influence other county clerks across the state.
“[Monday] was yet another powerful reminder that the march to justice is unstoppable and gaining momentum,” said Kate Kendell, NCLR executive director. “We are joyful for our client couples and for every same-sex couple in New Mexico. The freedom to marry is about love, commitment, family and security. These are universal values and they are center stage today.”
ACLU-NM executive director Peter Simonson said: “This is a great day to be a resident of New Mexico. Our state is now on the brink of joining the growing list of states who live and honor the values of family, liberty and love. Every family in this state is made richer by this step toward justice for all.”
The court rulings mean that gay and lesbian couples in the two largest cities and counties in New Mexico, making up almost half of the state’s population, are now permitted to marry. But the other half of the population cannot marry until a universal decision is reach for the state.
Meanwhile, some Republican lawmakers are threatening to sue to stop the same-gender marriages, and this could force the state’s Supreme Court to take up the issue.