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Why New Mexico Is On The Verge Of Becoming The Next Marriage Equality State

by David Badash on August 30, 2013

in Civil Rights,Marriage,News,Politics

Post image for Why New Mexico Is On The Verge Of Becoming The Next Marriage Equality State

Editor’s note: Read our update — Breaking: Exclusive — 7 GOP Lawmakers Sue To Stop New Mexico Same-Sex Marriages

The implications of the latest news make it clear: New Mexico seems to be on the verge of becoming the next state to extend marriage to same-sex couples, and the way it’s getting there defies precedent. Now, all 31 country clerks — representing every county in the state — have joined a lawsuit and will file an appeal with the New Mexico state Supreme Court. If they win, same-sex marriage will be legal across the state. Currently, six different New Mexico counties are issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

The ball really got rolling just last week, when a Doña Ana, New Mexico county clerk, Lynn Ellins, began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, based on a Santa Fe City Council resolution and a recent statement by the state Attorney General. Ellins, who is also an attorney, said he could find no legal reason to not issue same-sex couples marriage licenses.

Then, one week ago today, a New Mexico district court judge ordered the clerk of Santa Fe County to immediately begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, or appear in her courtroom to explain the reason she shouldn’t. So, that brought the list to two counties.

LOOK: New Mexico Celebrates Marriage Equality With A Group Wedding

This week, on Monday, a district court judge in Albuquerque ruled the state’s ban on same-sex marriage was “unconstitutional and unenforceable” and removed it from the county, Bernalillo, in which he had the authority to do so. That made three counties that were issuing licenses to same-sex couples.

By this point, hundreds of same-sex couples had been issued licenses and had married.

The following day, Tuesday, two more county clerks joined the list: Valencia County and San Miguel County, making five total. By Wednesday, the list grew to six, with the addition of Taos County.

All this, in a state where a May poll found 44 percent of the public supports same-sex marriage — far below the national average of about 53 percent, depending on the poll.

The good news for all these couples, too, is that legal experts deem their marriages as “just as married as anyone else,” and not in danger of being legally nullified if the courts later rule against same-sex marriage.

This truly grassroots revolution this month came “as fast as computer programs could be tweaked and marriage licenses could be printed sans the now-extraneous words of ‘male’ and ‘female,’” a front-page sotry in the Albuquerque Journal notes. “In these counties, brides- and grooms-to-be are now just plain ‘applicant.’”

Which is a beautiful word if you’ve waited for years to make your love legally binding.

And then, there was that one lonely guy Tuesday, standing on the fringe of Civic Plaza and a world that was changing under his feet, holding his neatly printed little sign that read: Marriage = 1 Man + 1 Woman.

That fuzzy math no longer computes in the most populous portions of New Mexico.

The other exceptionally strange development is the relative silence from “pro-family” and anti-gay hate groups — and the GOP. Of course, there was the usual National Organization For Marriage fundraising email, calling same-sex weddings in New Mexico a “marriage emergency,” and “lawless” — without actual explanation.

And while a group of state Republican lawmakers promised a week ago to file suit to end the issuance of marriage licenses to same-sex couples, apparently they have been too busy to do so. Or, perhaps the sheer lunacy of their poorly-chosen leader, William Sharer, who held up two gay Greek icons from the annals of history as proof marriage is meant for opposite-sex couples was just too much to bear — even for them.

Regardless, it seems that new Mexico is on a trajectory that will quickly make it the 14th state in the nation to embrace marriage equality, and the way they’re getting there is almost as beautiful as the result.

 

Image: Chris and Jonah, married in Santa Fe on Monday. Photo via Equality New Mexico on Facebook.

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{ 4 comments }

D.Henderson-Rinehart August 30, 2013 at 1:27 pm

Clarification: There are 33 counties in New Mexico. Since 2 of those counties' clerks are defendants in the case (Santa Fe and Bernalillo), the other 31 county clerks have *joined*.

southerntongue August 30, 2013 at 5:23 pm

Here in TN, they’ve gone as far as to declare this Saturday “Traditional Marriage Day” in which the bill passing this new state holiday quotes The Holy Bible. Why does the State feel it has the right to continually define marriage? Exactly what is “Traditional” Marriage in Tennessee seeing as even Interracial Marriage is STILL outlawed by the State Constitution along with Same Sex Marriage? http://dregstudiosart.blogspot.com/2013/08/on-wro

david_nwpa September 1, 2013 at 10:29 pm

"This week, on Monday, a district court judge in Albuquerque ruled the state’s ban on same-sex marriage was “unconstitutional and unenforceable” and removed it from the county, Bernalillo, in which he had the authority to do so."

New Mexico is the only US state which neither prohibits nor allows marriage for same-sex couples. The judge did not strike down a "ban" on marriage equality. Rather, the judge ordered the Clerk of the Court to explain why gay couples were denied equal rights or start issuing the licenses.

Coxhere September 2, 2013 at 7:53 am

It may not be a legal ban but there surely has been one: The ban comes from institutional homophobia.

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