On December 19, New Mexico joined 16 others in the US (including the District of Columbia) in legalizing same-sex marriage after the state Supreme Court passed its verdict.
Since there was no law regarding same-sex marriages in New Mexico, county clerks in eight New Mexico counties had been permitting marriage license to same-sex couples. County officials asked the Supreme Court to clarify the issue and implement a uniform state policy. Even though state statutes did not explicitly authorize or prohibit same-sex marriages, county clerks have historically refused licenses to gay and lesbian couples because the legal marriage application form only had a space for one male and one female. The forms also utilized the terms “husband” and “wife”.
The marriage laws in New Mexico have remained unaltered since 1961 and past state attorneys have upheld the prohibition of same-sex marriage. However, current state attorney general, Gary King is of the opinion that such a prohibition is unconstitutional.
Earlier in the year, a state district court judge in Albuquerque said that denying marriage licenses to same-sex couples would be a violation of New Mexico’s constitution. His decision was based on a 1972 constitutional amendment that forbids discrimination on grounds of a person’s sexual orientation. The defendants in that case, two county clerks, chose not to appeal the judge’s ruling and approached the Supreme Court directly with hopes of moving along the same-sex marriage question more quickly.