A New Mexico judge ordered the county clerks in Bernalillo and Santa Fe Counties to begin issuing marriage licenses to same sex couples on Tuesday. According to a press release from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Judge Alan Malott of the Second Judicial District Court of the State of New Mexico ruled that to deny same sex couples the right to marry violates the state constitution.
Malott was ruling on a case brought by the ACLU, the ACLU of New Mexico, the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) and local attorneys representing same sex couples who want to marry. USA Today reported that Bernalillo County, the state's most populous county, was set to begin issuing the licenses at 8:00 a.m. on Tuesday morning.
“This is a great day to be a resident of New Mexico,” said ACLU-NM director Peter Simonson in the agency's statement. "Our state is now on the brink of joining the growing list of states who live and honor the values of family, liberty and love. Every family in this state is made richer by this step toward justice for all.”
The ruling was handed down in a hearing in which a lesbian couple, Jen Roper and Angelique Neuman, were seeking to have their marriage recognized by the state. Roper is dying of incurable brain cancer and wants to be listed as married on her death certificate.
The Santa Fe, NM county clerk issued the women a marriage license and on Friday they were married in Roper's hospital room.
"It's been a long, long fight," Neuman told USA Today. "I'm glad things went our way."
State Assistant Attorney General Scott Fuqua cautioned that the ruling only applies to Bernalillo and Santa Fe Counties, not the state's other 30 counties. However, in his ruling, Malott called discrimination against same sex couples wishing to marry broadly illegal.
Prohibitions against allowing the couples to marry, he wrote, are "unconstitutional and unenforceable."
Politico quoted an anti-LGBT attendant at the hearing as saying that she is against the ruling. Christine Butler of Albuquerque said, "I don't want to bring my children or go to places and see same-sex couples showing a lot of affection...That's against God's law."
Republicans in the state intend to file suits barring county clerks in the remaining 30 counties from issuing licenses for same sex marriages. State Sen. William Sharer of Farmington, NM (R) said that legislators like himself make the laws, not judges or county clerks.
"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," he said.
[image of lesbian couple on their wedding day via Shutterstock.com]