Prohibiting gay marriage is a form of sexual discrimination, according to an Aug. 26 ruling by New Mexico state district judge Alan Malott. His decision prompted several counties in the state to begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. New Mexico does not currently have a specific constitutional provision or law that permits or denies same-sex marriage.
Six gay and lesbian couples filed lawsuits against Santa Fe and Bernalillo counties after being denied marriage licenses. On Aug. 26, Judge Malott ordered the Bernalillo County clerk to begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Malott ruled on the narrow topic of a lesbian couple’s marriage status, but then expanded his ruling to include gay couples statewide. His decision stated that New Mexico’s constitution prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.
Santa Fe and Taos counties began issuing same-sex marriage licenses after court rulings of their own, and a fourth lawsuit was filed in Los Alamos County on Aug. 28. Three other counties (Doña Ana, Valencia, and San Miguel) began issuing same-sex marriage licenses without court orders.
“I’m very happy and proud to finally be issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples,” said Maggie Toulouse Oliver, the Bernalillo County clerk. “Marriage is a fundamental civil right that should be acknowledged and respected at all levels of government… The fundamental assumption of that civil right outweighs other technicalities and concerns.”
Republican New Mexico State Senator William Sharer, in a blog post blasting the decision, stated that “procreation through the natural acts of men and women is the unique aspect of marriage… The reason for marriage [is] the creation and raising of children who have the best chance to grow to be peaceful, responsible citizens… As marriage goes, so go the children, so goes the nation, so goes the world… Marriage in New Mexico is between one man and one woman, period.” Sharer and a group of Republican lawmakers in the state legislature are pursuing legal action to prevent the six counties from continuing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, according to Talking Points Memo.
New Mexico Assistant Attorney General Scott Fuqua warned that Malott’s decision did not apply to all 30 counties in New Mexico, but rather only to the two counties involved with that particular case. Attorney General Gary King, however, has said he will not appeal the rulings. Clerks in New Mexico’s other counties can “choose to follow existing case law and issue their own same-sex marriage licenses, or they could wait to issue licenses until they are compelled by a court order to do so,” according to Cathryn Oakley, an attorney for the Human Rights Campaign, a pro-gay rights group in Washington. The New Mexico Association of Counties and all 33 county clerks are expected to file an appeal with the state Supreme Court for legal guidance.