American Foundation for Equal Rights

Marriage News Blog

Gay and Lesbian Couples Get Married In New Mexico

Gay and lesbian couples are getting married in three of New Mexico’s largest counties, with clerks in two additional counties planning to follow suit as well.

A Bernalillo County judge Monday found that prohibitions on allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry in the state “are unconstitutional and unenforceable.” He found that:

“Gay and lesbian citizens of New Mexico have endured a long history of discrimination. Denial of the right to marry continues this unfortunate, intolerable pattern and establishes irreparable injury on plaintiffs’ part.

AP Photo

Over 100 couples lined up to get marriage licenses in Albuquerque on Tuesday morning.

Last Friday, a Santa Fe judge issued a similar ruling in a case involving a woman who is suffering from terminal brain cancer and wanted to marry her partner of over 21 years.  Jen Roper and Angelique Neuman sued to get married because they are unable to travel to a state with marriage equality. They held a small, impromptu wedding ceremony in a cancer treatment facility on Friday shortly after the ruling came down. The couple adopted three siblings from the New Mexico foster care system. Their oldest is enlisted in the U.S. Army and is currently in basic training.

Angelique Neuman, left, and Jen Roper, right. Photo by Albuquerque Journal

The county clerk of Dona Ana County (which includes Las Cruses) decided on his own to recognize the freedom to marry and has been issuing marriage licenses since the week before. The AP reports that clerks in San Miguel and Valencia counties say they’ve also ordered gender-neutral forms.

Regarding questions about the validity of any marriages entered into in Bernalillo County, Christopher Stoll, a senior staff attorney at NCLR, told BuzzFeed:

“These licenses are issued pursuant to a court order and are based on solid legal reasoning. To our knowledge, no appellate court has ever invalidated a marriage license issued pursuant to a court order, and we do not think the New Mexico appellate courts will do so either. This is a new day, in which both courts and public officials of all kinds are recognizing that the law requires that same-sex couples have equal access to marriage. That is particularly evident in New Mexico, where there is no statutory or constitutional ban on marriage for same-sex couples, and where the principle of equal protection of same-sex couples is already so deeply rooted in state law.”

Stoll also told BuzzFeed that it was unclear whether any party would appeal in the case, though there are several other challenges working their way through the state courts.

New Mexico is in a unique position. It is the only state that does not explicitly recognize marriage equality or ban marriage for gay and lesbian couples.