New Mexico Supreme Court rules for marriage equality

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The plaintiffs in an ACLU case who sued for marriage rights in N.M.

The New Mexico Supreme Court on Dec. 19 ruled in favor of same-sex couples marrying in the state.

The state's highest court held that the New Mexico Constitution guarantees the right of gays and lesbians to marry their partners. In a 5-0 ruling, the court determined 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. In effect, the court made the freedom to marry for all New Mexicans, regardless of gender, the law in the Land of Enchantment. 

The court said, "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."

Earlier this year, under the instructions of several judges, clerks in a number of New Mexico began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Weddings took place even as lawsuits were making their way to the state supreme court.

"For Equality New Mexico, today has been more than 20 years in the making, and for our community it's felt like a lifetime of waiting to exercise our freedom to marry the person we love," said Equality New Mexico executive director Amber Royster. "We are so proud that the New Mexico Supreme Court ruled on the side of fairness and respect. As New Mexicans, we should all carry our heads a little higher today." 

"It’s a historic day in New Mexico. Moments ago, in a landmark decision, the New Mexico Supreme Court affirmed what a majority of New Mexicans already know: every loving, committed couple in our state should have the freedom to marry," said Robert Adams of New Mexico Unites.

He said rallies to celebrate the news were being planned for later on Dec. 19 across New Mexico, the 17th state in the United States to legalize same-sex marriage. Same-sex couples also can marry in the District of Columbia.

"I was raised in New Mexico, and I have been waiting for marriage equality to become a reality," added Marriage Equaltiy USA member John Hamiga. "I wrote to members of the New Mexico congressional delegation in support of the freedom to marry during the DOMA debate in 1996. Today I'm celebrating my home state of New Mexico becoming the 17th marriage equality state in the union."

MEUSA executive director Brian Silva said, "The 2013 marriages began when Doña Ana County Clerk Lynn Ellins began issuing marriage licenses with the simple declaration: 'I took an oath to uphold the Constitution.' Today, the New Mexico Supreme Court has done the same — upheld the Constitution, and fulfilled its promise of fairness and the pursuit of happiness for all."

At the Human Rights Campaign in D.C., Chad Griffin said, "The court is entirely correct that denying lesbian and gay couples the same rights as everyone else is fundamentally unjust. Regardless of where you live, all people should have the ability to marry the person they love, and now the Legislature must not do anything to turn back the clock in the Land of Enchantment." Griffin, the president of HRC, was a leader in the campaign to overturn the anti-gay Proposition 8 and advance marriage equality in California.

Editor's note: This is a developing story. Please check back for more.