SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) The New Mexico Supreme Court legalized same-sex
marriage in the state Thursday, declaring in a ruling that it is
unconstitutional to deny a marriage license to gay and lesbian couples.
New Mexico joins 16 states and the District of Columbia in allowing gay marriage.
Eight of the state's 33 counties started issuing marriage licenses to
same-sex couples in August, when a county clerk in southern New Mexico
independently decided to allow the unions. County officials asked the
high court to clarify the law and establish a uniform state policy on
State statutes don't explicitly prohibit or authorize gay marriage.
However, the marriage laws unchanged since 1961 contain a marriage
license application with sections for male and female applications.
There also are references to "husband" and "wife."
The current and previous state attorneys general have said the law
effectively prohibits gay marriage, although current Attorney General
Gary King also has said he believes such a prohibition is
A state district court judge in Albuquerque ruled earlier this year
that it is a violation of New Mexico's constitution to deny marriage
licenses to same-sex couples. The judge based his decision on a 1972
constitutional amendment adopted by voters that prohibits discrimination
"on account of the sex of any person."
Two county clerks that were defendants in that case decided not to
directly appeal the judge's ruling. However, the county association and
the state's 31 other county clerks including several already issuing
marriage licenses to same-sex couples joined the lawsuit to provide a
way to quickly move the gay marriage question to the Supreme Court.
The five justices previously turned down efforts by gay rights
advocates to get a ruling on the marriage issue. The advocates had
attempted to get a decision by filing lawsuits directly with the Supreme
Court rather than through an appeal of a lower court decision.
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