A New Mexico judge on Monday declared same-sex marriage legal, ordering the clerk of the state’s most populous county to join two other counties in issuing licenses for gay and lesbian couples.
State District Judge Alan Malott ruled New Mexico’s constitution prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.
The Bernalillo County Clerk’s Office in Albuquerque planned to start issuing licenses to gay couples at 8 a.m. Tuesday.
The decision came after a judge directed the Santa Fe County clerk to begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples last week. But Malott’s ruling was seen as more sweeping because he directly declared that gay marriage was legal.
Laura Schauer Ives, a lawyer for the American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico, called it “monumental” and said the group didn’t expect such a broad decision by Malott. The judge had been asked only to order that the state recognize, on her death certificate, a dying woman’s marriage Friday in Santa Fe to her longtime partner.
But after a short hearing in which neither the counties nor the state objected to the request, Malott also ruled on the broader lawsuit by that couple and five others seeking marriage licenses.
“We were stunned and amazed,” Ives said.
However, it’s uncertain whether clerks in the state’s 30 other counties, who were not defendants in the lawsuit, will use the judge’s ruling as a signal that they can issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Assistant Attorney General Scott Fuqua said the decision wasn’t binding on clerks outside Bernalillo and Santa Fe counties.
Thirteen states and the District of Columbia have legalized same sex marriage. View a map showing each state's laws.