CREDIT: Jim Thompson/Albuquerque Journal
A New Mexico district judge has ordered Santa Fe and Bernalillo Counties to offer same-sex couples marriage licenses. The ruling, combined with an earlier separate ruling regarding Santa Fe county and a decision by Doña Ana’s county clerk, means roughly half of New Mexico’s citizens now reside in a jurisdiction with marriage equality.
New Mexico has no constitutional ban on same-sex marriage and nothing in state law explicitly bans the practice. While Attorney General Gary King (D) recently determined that the state code did implicitly prevent same-sex couples from getting marriage licenses, he also found that these prohibitions violated the federal and state constitutions’ equal protection clauses. New Mexico’s constitution also guarantees that “equality of rights under law shall not be denied on account of the sex of any person.”
Judge Alan Malott, finding that the implicit laws against same-sex marriage indeed violate the state’s constitution, issued a declaratory judgment on Monday, ordered the county clerk for both Santa Fe and Bernalillo to immediately begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples who seek them. “There is no benefit to the parties or the public interest in having this matter progress through a lengthy path of litigation while basic constitutional rights are being compromised or denied on a daily basis,” he wrote.
Santa Fe County had already begun issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples after a different district judge’s ruling last week. Bernalillo County Clerk Maggie Toulouse Oliver (D) prepared hundreds of gender-neutral marriage licences prior to Monday’s ruling, in case the judge ruled as he did.
Bernalillo County, New Mexico’s largest, is home to Albuquerque. Santa Fe County, the third largest county in the state, is home to the capital city of Santa Fe. Doña Ana County, the second largest in the “Land of Enchantment,” is home of Las Cruces. An estimated 1,034,280 of the state’s 2,085,538 people reside in one of those three counties.
Anti-LGBT State Sen. William Sharer (R), who is leading a group of lawmakers planning a lawsuit to attempt to stop same-sex marriages in Doña Ana County, blasted the ruling: “It is up the New Mexico State Legislature, with the consent of the Governor of New Mexico, to make laws and for county clerks and district court judges to abide by them.” Clerks and judges, he notes, “do not make the laws. It is inexplicable how a district court just today discovered a new definition of marriage in our laws, when our marriage law has not been changed in over a century.”