On December 19, 2013, the New Mexico Supreme Court ruled unanimously in favor of the freedom to marry for same-sex couples. The court wrote: "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."
The decision took effect immediately.
The court case that triggered the victory in New Mexico came after a flurry of activity in New Mexico during the summer of 2013. In August and September 2013, over the course of two weeks, eight New Mexico counties extended the freedom to marry to same-sex couples: Bernalillo County, Santa Fe County, Taos County, Doña Ana County, San Miguel County, Los Alamos County, Grant County, and Valencia County. Some counties began issuing marriage licences after being ordered by district courts, and in others, county clerks followed the lead of these rulings.
The decisions ordering the issuance of marriage licenses to same-sex couples were based on the gender-neutral language in the state's marriage law.
New Mexico's laws do not explicitly allow or prohibit marriage for same-sex couples. In 2004, a clerk began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, but the state’s then-Attorney General ordered the county to stop, and declared the marriages invalid. County clerks agreed not to issue any other licenses to same-sex couples. Since then, state lawmakers have not taken further action and the freedom to marry has hung in legal limbo. Read more about marriage in New Mexico here.
In January 2011, New Mexico Attorney General Gary King issued an opinion on whether New Mexico law allows the state to respect legal out-of-state marriages between same-sex couples. Citing New Mexico's lack of legislation on the freedom to marry, he said, "While we cannot predict how a New Mexico court would rule on this issue, after review of the law in this area, it is our opinion that a same-sex marriage that is valid under the laws of the country or state where it was consummated would likewise be found valid in New Mexico. ... Without an identifiable adverse public policy in this area, we conclude that a court addressing the issue would likely hold that a valid same-sex marriage from another jurisdiction is valid in New Mexico."
For several years, marriage supporters have worked toward legislation to approve the freedom to marry across the state. In the 2007 legislative session, New Mexico introduced both a marriage bill and a domestic partnership bill. Although the marriage bill did not move, the domestic partnership bill passed the House and passed two Senate Committees before the 2007 legislative session ended, and it was introduced again in 2008 and 2010.
On March 21, 2013, two same-sex couples seeking the freedom to marry in New Mexico filed a lawsuit in the district court of Albuquerque, NM. The lawsuit came just two days after Santa Fe Mayor David Cross and Councilor Patti Bushee announced that they would sponsor a resolution recognizing that same-sex couples can legally marry in the state of New Mexico and that county clerks should begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
GROUPS THAT WORKED ON MARRIAGE:
- Equality New Mexico is an advocacy organization that uses both community outreach and the political process to promote civil rights, to end discrimination, and to further the general welfare of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities in New Mexico.
- The ACLU of New Mexico is one of the organizations that filed the March 2013 lawsuit on behalf of two same-sex couples seeking the freedom to marry.
- National Center for Lesbian Rights is one of the organizations that filed the March 2013 lawsuit on behalf of two same-sex couples seeking the freedom to marry.
- Freedom to Marry is the campaign to win marriage for same-sex couples nationwide.
- Just New Mexico is a grass roots organization working to achieve the freedom to marry for all lesbian and gay couples in New Mexico.
- Human Rights Campaign is the United States' largest civil rights organization working to achieve lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) equality.
51% of New Mexico residents say they support the freedom to marry - and 53% of respondents in an October 2013 poll say they support a ruling from the New Mexico Supreme Court this year declaring the freedom to marry across the state. Support for marriage in New Mexico increased sharply in the summer of 2013, when eight New Mexico counties began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. The poll also found that important segments of the state support marriage after learning that gay and lesbian couples can marry in some New Mexico counties but not others. For example, a majority of Independents (59%), older Hispanics (53%), Anglo men (54%), Catholics (54%) and Hispanics who attend church weekly (53%) support a favorable court ruling. (Why Marriage Matters New Mexico Poll, October 2013)
NUMBER OF SAME-SEX COUPLES:
According to The Williams Institute's analysis of the 2010 U.S. Census, 5,825 same-sex couples are living in New Mexico, representing 7.4 same-sex couples per 1,000 households.
Blog Posts Related to New Mexico
On February 20, a one-month legislative session in New Mexico drew to a close - and with the session's end, it's clear that marriage supporters in the state were successful in their campaign to defend and protect the freedom to marry.
This week, New Mexico Unites for Marriage, the coalition working to defend the freedom to marry for same-sex couples in New Mexico, launched a video profile of the Montoya Family.
This morning, a coalition of state and national organizations in New Mexico launched a new statewide television spot featuring The Sandoval Family, headed by Daniel and Theresa Sandoval, who have been married for 51 years in Albuquerque, NM.
Resources Related to New Mexico
A listing of both state and national political parties that have made strong statements in support of the freedom to marry.
Demographic and economic information about same-sex couples and same-sex couples raising children in New Mexico.
Groundbreaking research showing a huge increase in same-sex couples identifying themselves as "unmarried partners".