Marriage at the New Mexico Supreme Court
The Path to Victory
On December 19, 2013, the New Mexico Supreme Court ruled decisively in favor of the freedom to marry for same-sex couples. The court wrote:
We conclude that the purpose of New Mexico marriage laws is to bring stability and order to the legal relationship of committed couples by defining their rights and responsibilities as to one another, their children if they choose to raise children together, and their property.
Prohibiting same-gender marriages is not substantially related to the governmental interests advanced by the parties opposing same-gender marriage or to the purposes we have identified. Therefore, 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.
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.
On September 5, 2013, 31 of the 33 county clerks in New Mexico urged the Supreme Court to issue a decisive ruling on an Albuquerque judge's decision to enact the freedom to marry in Santa Fe County and Bernalillo County. The lawsuit asks the state Supreme Court to issue a ruling that would provide clarity on the question of whether the state constitution guarantees same-sex couples the equal freedom to marry.
In August and September 2013, eight New Mexico counties began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. The county clerks filed this suit together to receive a decisive ruling on the freedom to marry in New Mexico, a state where the constitution neither prohibits nor permits same-sex couples to join in marriage.
The New Mexico Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the case on October 23, 2013.
Griego v. Oliver
On March 21, 2013, the American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of New Mexico, the National Center for Lesbian Rights, the Albuquerque law firm Sutin, Thayer & Browne, APC, and local cooperating attorneys Maureen Sanders, Lynn Perls, and Kate Girard filed a lawsuit in state court on behalf of two same-sex couples seeking the freedom to marry in New Mexico. The lawsuit has since expanded to several additional couples.
On July 3, 2013, the plaintiffs filed a writ of mandamus with the New Mexico State Supreme Court seeking a ruling on whether same-sex couples can marry in the state of New Mexico. The writ also asked the Court to clarify that New Mexico respects out-of-state marriages between same-sex couples.
In mid-August and early September, same-sex couples in eight New Mexico counties began marrying, with some counties issuing marriage licenses after orders from district courts and, in others, county clerks following suit and issuing licenses. In Griego v. Oliver, the district court judge ordered Santa Fe County and Bernalillo County to begin issuing marriage licenses. The rulings and decisions to issue licenses were based on the gender-neutral language in the state’s marriage law.
Several additional marriage cases have been filed in New Mexico, but all of them, including Griego v. Oliver, are on hold pending a decision from the New Mexico Supreme Court, which has agreed to hear a marriage case on October 23, 2013. Marriage supporters hope that the Supreme Court offers clarity on the question of whether the state constitution guarantees same-sex couples the equal freedom to marry. The additional five cases, all filed by private lawyers in trial court, include:
- Hanna v. Salazar
- Stark v. Martinez
- Newton v. Stover
- Gering v. Garbagni
- Sharer v. Ellins