New Mexico's Supreme Court legalizes gay marriage

  • Article by: FERNANDA SANTOS
  • New York Times
  • December 19, 2013 - 8:27 PM

The New Mexico Supreme Court said Thursday that same-sex couples are allowed the “rights, protections and responsibilities that derive from civil marriage” already afforded to other couples under the state Constitution.

With the ruling, which takes effect immediately, New Mexico joined 16 other states and the District of Columbia in permitting same-sex marriage.

The right to marriage for same-sex couples, the justices ruled, is guaranteed under the equal-protections clause of the New Mexico Constitution, which was amended in 1972 to include that “equality of rights under law shall not be denied on account of the sex of any person.”

“Today’s decision 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,” said Shannon Minter, legal director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights, which brought the case with the American Civil Liberties Union.

The justices turned down the opposition’s argument that prohibiting same-sex marriage was necessary to safeguard the government’s “overriding interest of responsible procreation and child rearing,” saying that such interest played no part in the development of the state’s marriage laws.

“Procreation,” said Justice Edward L. Chavez, who wrote the court’s opinion, “has never been a condition of marriage under New Mexico law, as evidenced by the fact that the aged, the infertile and those who choose not to have children are not precluded from marrying.”

Six same-sex couples filed a lawsuit in March, seeking the right to marry. In August, a district court judge in Albuquerque ordered clerks in Bernalillo County — whose seat is Albuquerque, the state’s most populous city — and Santa Fe, the state capital, to begin issuing marriage licenses to gay couples.

The 33 county clerks in New Mexico intervened, asking the state Supreme Court to resolve the issue.

The court heard arguments on Oct. 23. By then, eight county clerks had started giving marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

According to the New Mexico chapter of the ACLU, about 1,000 same-sex couples have already been married in the state.

An appeal of the ruling is unlikely. The defendants, 33 county clerks represented by the New Mexico Association of Counties, had stated that their job was not to delve into politics, but to uphold the law.

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