Family Law

New Mexico Supreme Court legalizes same-sex marriage

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The New Mexico Supreme Court declared Thursday that same-sex marriages were legal in the state.

In a unanimous 5-0 ruling, the state’s highest court held that it was unconstitutional for the state to deny marriage licenses to same-sex couples, and that legally married gay couples could not be denied the same benefits and protections afforded to heterosexual married couples. According to the Washington Post, New Mexico is now the 17th state in the United States to recognize the legality of same-sex marriages, and is the first southwestern state to do so. The Washington Post has a list of the other 16 states, plus the District of Columbia, which have recognized the legality of same-sex marriages.

“Although this question arouses sincerely-felt religious beliefs both in favor of and against same-gender marriages, our analysis does not and cannot depend on religious doctrine without violating the Constitution,” Justice Edward Chavez wrote in the decision (PDF). Chavez was also skeptical of the argument that defining marriage as a union between a man and woman was necessary to encourage responsible procreation and child-rearing. “Procreation 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,” Chavez wrote. “In addition, New Mexico law recognizes the right of same-gender couples to raise children.”

The victorious plaintiffs, which consisted of six same-sex couples, were represented by the American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of New Mexico, the National Center for Lesbian Rights), the law firm of Sutin, Thayer & Browne and New Mexico attorneys Maureen Sanders, N. Lynn Perls, and J. Kate Girard. In a statement, the ACLU hailed the ruling, as well as Chavez’s opinion. “This truly is a historic and joyful day for New Mexico,” said Laura Schauer Ives, ACLU-New Mexico’s legal director, in a statement. “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 one-thousand 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.”

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