New Mexico’s Supreme Court ruled unanimously Thursday (December 19) that same-sex marriages must be allowed in the state.
“The court ruled that county clerks must issue marriage licenses to otherwise qualified same-sex couples and that the State of New Mexico must respect the marriages of all same-sex couples, including those who married before today’s decision,” the San Francisco-based National Center for Lesbian Rights announced in a news release.
According to NCLR, in the court’s decision, Justice Edward Chavez wrote, “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.”
In March, the six plaintiff couples in the case filed a lawsuit seeking marriage equality. In August, Judge Alan Malott of the Second Judicial District Court in Albuquerque ordered the Bernalillo and Santa Fe County clerks to begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. All of the state’s 33 county clerks then filed a petition asking the New Mexico Supreme Court to rule whether same-sex couples could marry in the state, according to NCLR. The court heard oral arguments in October.
Some county clerks had already begun issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, and hundreds of the couples have married in the past few months. Thursday’s ruling means the state marriages must respect those marriages.
NCLR, the American Civil Liberties Union, ACLU-New Mexico, and numerous attorneys represented the plaintiff couples in the case.
NCLR Legal Director Shannon Minter stated Thursday, “Today’s decision by the New Mexico Supreme Court is a powerful affirmation that same-sex couples are equal members of New Mexico’s diverse culture and must be given the same legal protections and respect as other families. With this ruling, New Mexico joins 16 other states, the District of Columbia, and at least eight Native American tribes that permit same-sex couples to marry. This is an important day, not only for New Mexico, but for the entire country.”
ACLU-New Mexico Legal Director Laura Schauer Ives stated, “This truly is a historic and joyful day for New Mexico. 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. The more than 1000 same-sex couples who have already married in New Mexico can now rest certain knowing their marriages will be recognized and respected by our state.”
With Thursday’s ruling, New Mexico becomes the 17th state to allow same-sex marriages, which the District of Columbia also permits.