NM Supreme Court declares gay marriage legal

Updated: 12/19/2013 2:42 PM | Created: 12/19/2013 11:21 AM
By: Elizabeth Reed,

The New Mexico Supreme Court has cleared the way for gay marriage in the state.

In a unanimous decision on Thursday, the state's highest court declared state marriage laws unconstitutional and upheld New Mexico county clerks' decisions to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

The state Supreme Court will now define "civil marriage" as the voluntary union of two persons to the exclusion of all others. In addition, all rights, protections and responsibilities that result from the marital relationship shall apply equally to both same-gender and opposite-gender married couples.

Writing for the court, Justice Edward Chavez said that "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 August, the Doña Ana County clerk announced he would issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples because there was nothing in the state's constitution preventing it. Seven county clerks followed suit; some because of an Albuquerque district court judge's ruling that it is unconstitutional to deny marriage licenses to gay and lesbian couples.

New Mexico was the only state in the country without a clear definition of marriage. The constitution defined marriage as between two parties, but many gay couples were denied licenses because the forms required both a male and female applicant.

The state's highest court agreed to hear the case after several county clerks asked the justices to clarify the law.

New Mexico is now one of 17 states where same-sex marriage is legal.

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