Marriage Equality Comes, County by County, to New Mexico
August 26, 2013 by Cathryn Oakley, Senior Legislative Counsel, State & Municipal Advocacy
This afternoon, following a court order, Bernalillo County became the third county in New Mexico in a week to being issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Nearly half of the population of New Mexico lives in the three counties that are issuing marriage licenses.
The State of New Mexico has neither an express authorization for same-sex marriage nor an express prohibition, and today's ruling by the Second Judicial Court clarified that New Mexico marriage laws do not preclude the Defendants, the County Clerks of Bernalillo and Santa Fe Counties, from issuing marriage licenses to otherwise qualified couples on the basis of the sexual orientation or gender of the parties to be married. Santa Fe County began issuing such licenses last week prompted by a different court order that said that reading a sex or sexual orientation requirement into the laws of New Mexico violates the state constitution's requirement that that legal rights may not be denied on account of sex.
A few days prior to that decision, the Clerk of Dona Ana County cited the gender-neutral language used in New Mexico's marriage statutes as a factor that led to his conclusion that he was upholding New Mexico law by allowing same-sex marriages. While the Attorney General of New Mexico has disagreed that current law allows same-sex marriage, he has opined that denying marriage to same-sex couples is an unconstitutional deprivation of equal protection rights. He has not moved to stop marriage licenses from being issued in these three counties. It is becoming increasingly clear that momentum - and the New Mexico state constitution - are on the side of equality.
Bernalillo County, Santa Fe County, and Dona Ana County Clerks are all issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples and conducting weddings. Among those married last week were plaintiffs in the case heard today, Jen Roper and Angelique Neuman. Ms. Roper is very seriously ill, and facilitating her marriage to Ms. Neuman was one of the reasons for today's motion for a temporary restraining order. Like the recent case in Ohio, this couple wanted to be able to make their marriage official while they still could.
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