The piecemeal approach to legalizing same-sex marriage in New Mexico may be at an end as the state’s thirty-three counties have petitioned the State Supreme Court to stop the various lawsuits and rule on the issue of same-sex marriage.
New Mexico has been struggling with various courts issuing orders for the counties to provide same-sex couples marriage licences. Eight of the counties have either chosen to or been ordered to provide licenses so far.
Amber Royster of Equality New Mexico stated that “The filing by the county clerks gets us another step closer to a statewide solution. With over 900 marriage licenses having been issued to same-sex couples in New Mexico in recent weeks, we need the State Supreme Court to weigh in so that all New Mexicans, regardless of gender, are free to marry the person they love in every edge and corner of our Land of Enchantment.”
New Mexico is in an unusual situation in that they do not have an explicit ban on same-sex marriage, nor do they have a marriage law that explicitly states marriage is between a man and a woman. Because of this, various courts have interpreted the law, coupled with the state’s Constitution, as meaning that same-sex marriage is legal in the New Mexico.
Los Alamos and Grant Counties recently joined Bernalillo, Santa Fe, Taos, Dona Ana, San Miguel and Valencia Counties in allowing same-sex couples to marry. So far, some 900 same-sex couples have requested marriage licenses.
Los Alamos County Clerk Sharon Stover has been fighting the court order requiring her to provide same-sex couples marriage licenses. Stover denied a license to a same-sex couple claiming that the actual language of the state law creates a ban on same-sex marriage. The statute does not say man and woman, but rather contains references to the words ‘husband’ and ‘wife’.
Stover stated that “I respect and value the rights of each person to be treated as equally and fairly as our Constitution states. Clearly, the marriage license in state statute has not been updated since 1961. It does not work for same-sex couples, and that is a matter for the Legislature to fix, not a clerk and not a district judge.”
Stover hopes that the State Supreme Court will rule soon.
Stover’s request to put off issuing the marriage license was denied by the court who largely stated that what the law states trumps what the form is, and that Stover has a clear duty to issue a license in this particular case.