New Mexico Supreme Court rules same-sex marriage legal

17th state








New Mexico Supreme Court justices

New Mexico Supreme Court justices

The following comes from a Dec. 19 story in the Santa Fe New Mexican.

The state Supreme Court ruled unanimously Thursday that it’s unconstitutional to deny marriage licenses to same-sex couples in New Mexico.

News of the ruling, which came after eight county clerks in the state had started issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples earlier this year, spread quickly on social media and touched off celebrations among marriage-equality advocates.

New Mexico joins 16 other states in allowing gay marriage through legislation, court rules or voter referendums.

Justice Edward Chávez wrote in the court’s opinion that although New Mexico’s marriage statutes do not specifically prohibit same-gender marriages, existing state laws have had the effect of preventing same-gender couples from marrying and enjoying the rights and protections of civil marriage.

Such couples have been “subjected to a history of discrimination and violence,” he wrote, and barring them from getting married violates the constitution’s equal protection clause. New Mexico cannot deny them the right to marry, he said, “unless the proponents of the legislation — the opponents of same-gender marriage — prove that the discrimination caused by the legislation is substantially related to an important government interest.”

The court rejected the argument that “responsible procreation and child-rearing” is an “overriding governmental interest,” in part because procreation has never been a condition of marriage under New Mexico law, and state law recognizes the right of same-gender couples to raise children.

The court declined to strike down the state’s marriage laws, however, because that would be inconsistent with the Legislature’s commitment to “fostering stable families.” However, Chávez wrote, all the rights, protections and responsibilities of marriage shall “apply equally to both same-gender and opposite-gender married couples.”

Politicians supporting gay marriage immediately began to weigh in, expressing jubilation.

City Councilor Patti Bushee and former state Democratic Party chairman Javier Gonzales, two of the three candidates running in the Santa Fe mayor’s race, praised the decision, as did two Democratic gubernatorial candidates, Alan Webber and Gary King, as well as Santa Fe Mayor David Coss and current state Democratic Party Chairman Sam Bregman.

Former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson, a longtime Republican who ran as a Libertarian in the 2012 presidential election, sent an email, saying, “This ruling is in line with our basic values as a state. In New Mexico, we don’t turn our back on any member of our families.”

Democrats in New Mexico’s congressional delegation — U.S. Sens. Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich and U.S. Reps. Ben Ray Luján and Michelle Lujan Grisham — issued a joint news release applauding the decision.

As the news spread across the country, actor George Takei, who played Hikaru Sulu in the original Star Trek, tweeted, “Oh happy day! New Mexico makes 17!”

Gov. Susana Martinez, not a supporter of marriage equality, issued a statement calling for both sides of the issue to show each other respect.

“My personal views on this issue are well-known, and I’m confident that most New Mexicans believe, like I do, that it should have been settled by a vote of the people,” Martinez said. “Instead, the Supreme Court stepped in and rendered their decision.”

The governor said that while she’s sure there will be “intense debate about this decision,” she encouraged New Mexicans “to continue to respect one another in their discourse, as this is an important issue for many New Mexicans on both sides. As we move forward, I am hopeful that we will not be divided, as we must come together to tackle very pressing issues, like reforming education and growing our economy, in the weeks and months ahead.”

Asked for comment about the decision, a spokesman for the New Mexico Conference of Catholic Bishops, which is opposed to same-sex marriage, pointed to a brief statement on the website of the Archdiocese of Santa Fe.

“The bishops of New Mexico recognize the New Mexico Supreme Court as the interpreter of the State Constitution. The Catholic Church respects and loves the gay and lesbian members of our community. We will continue to promote Catholic teaching of the Biblical definition of marriage to be that of one man and one woman.”

State Sen. Bill Sharer, R-Farmington, a leading legislative opponent of same-sex marriage, said in a statement that he’s disappointed by the court ruling. But, he added, “If they are saying [prohibiting gay marriage] is unconstitutional, we need to make it constitutional.”

Sharer said he plans to introduce a constitutional amendment to reverse the court’s ruling. He had planned to prefile a proposed amendment Thursday, but when the court’s decision came down, he decided to redraft it to make sure it conformed with points made by the high court.

On the national level, Brian Brown, president of National Organization for Marriage, issued a statement saying,”Once again, activists judges have thrown out the historic legal understanding of marriage in New Mexico. This is a continuation of a very dangerous rush towards silencing people of faith who simply believe marriage to be the union of one man and one woman.”

After oral arguments in the Supreme Court last October, Sharer had predicted the court would rule in favor of same-sex marriage but said he would seek legislation to specifically outlaw it.

Legislative opponents of gay marriage have tried for more than a decade to pass laws or constitutional amendments to prohibit homosexuals from marrying each other. Normally, such bills get stuck in the legislative committee process. With Democrats controlling the Legislature, there’s not much to suggest that the result would be any different in the upcoming session.

Meanwhile, county clerks who haven’t already been issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples began preparing to do so.

Sandoval County Clerk Eileen Garbagni said Thursday that her office will begin issuing marriage licenses to gay couples at 9 a.m. Friday, Dec. 20. “We’ve got the paperwork ready,” she said. Katrina Salazar, who works at the Rio Arriba County Clerk’s Office in Tierra Amarilla, said because of the ruling, her office will now begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. “That’s the law,” she said.

The decision could have significant benefits for married gay people who are eligible for Social Security benefits or will be eligible soon.

“As the rules are currently written, state recognition of a marriage is key to the issue of Social Security retirement benefits and survivor benefits,” said Brad Wright, a spokesman for the Washington, D.C.-based National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare. “The difference can be literally life-changing for some, with hundreds of dollars more per month.”

The website for the Social Security Administration says the agency is developing and implementing its policies in that area.

“If you are in, or are a surviving spouse of, a same-sex marriage or other legal same-sex relationship, even if you live in a state that prohibits same-sex marriage, we encourage you to apply right away,” the website says.

The issue came to a head in New Mexico this year, when same-sex couples in Las Cruces, Bernalillo and Santa Fe counties asked county clerks to issue marriage licenses. At first the clerks declined, but then judicial filings cleared the way for same-sex licenses in some counties but not others.

The case was accepted by the five-member court when all 33 county clerks across the state asked for clarity on the laws.

To read original story, click here.


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  1. Steve Phoenix says:

    Everyone is going to love this: NM’s Supreme Court has 5 members, who ruled unanimously in favor of gay marraige. Chief Justice Petra Jimenez Maes was raised Catholic and in one of her bios says she taught catechism at her children’s school. Justice Richard C. Bosson is reputed to be Catholic, and did attend Georgetown Law, where he got his degree. Edward L. Chavez who wrote the opinion was likely raised Catholic, but he has never declared publicly his belief. Charles W Daniels, the longest serving justice, is definitely Catholic, having publicly stated so, and also attended and graduated from Georgetown Law. Barbara Vigil the last member, went to Catholic grade boarding school (St Catherine’s in N New Mexico) and also a Catholic high school for 4 years, before apparently losing her faith @ New Mexico State and law school at Univ New Mexico. They voted 5-0 for gay marriage, friends. Isnt it wonderful that we have a Catholic influence in our judicial system?

  2. St. Christopher says:

    This type of ruling is anathema to the Constitution and to a Republican style Democracy. America exists to as a nation of laws and elected legislators to make the laws. Instead, we are a nation of people lead by lawyers and by de jure, and de facto, non-elected courts (and state judiciaries, even if elected, stand little chance of defeat on their referenda, notwithstanding what happened in Iowa). The NM Supreme Court has no right to say what state law must affirmatively be. In fact, since the days of Brown v. Board of Education, courts have behaved entirely beyond their intended jurisdiction. (Oh yes, the mail will come in now — what is wrong with “Brown;” are you against having the same schools for all. But this type of reform should be lead by elected leaders, not the courts. One unintended consequence of such judicial acitvism, such as bussing, has been to destroy America’s urban core. Whites abadoned a good number of cities where judges, for the best intended reasons, forced the re-alignment of the lives of millions of whites to accommodate insane “racial planning.” Much good literature exists on this topic, which is recommended.) A few judges say that they like people to have sex with whomever and whatever they want, and voila, all is changed. But, we know that this type of thing will have many consequences, almost all of which we do not know. Probably too late to address the political side of the homosexual sexual conquests of states, particularly as the Catholic Church, which could have stopped it, does not really care. (Yes, who am I to judge??) Utter insanity.

    • St. Christopher, when I read the Pope’s words in context, I took them to mean that he could not judge the sincerity, most likely in the confessional, of a man or woman who shows repentance and is sincerely trying to stop bad behavior. In other words he could not judge their sincerity if they seem to be trying to lead a better life. The major media, of course, twisted it to their own agenda

  3. mike magee says:

    In my opinion, absent BROWN, school segregation by race would still be the law at least in some parts of the south, and perhaps elsewhere.

    I wonder what percentage of Georgetown Law alums are not Catholic. Never were, never will be. Perhaps the school influenced their beliefs but I doubt it converted them.

    I commend the New Mexico Justices. They recognize the United States is not a theocracy. This is fundamental to American religious history. The justices recognized secular law can differ from religious law.

    God’s law may be immutable. But there will always be differences in human interpretation of God’s law.

    • O Mary Conceived Without Sin Pray For Us Who Have Recourse To Thee. And Pray For Those Who Do Not Have Recourse To Thee, Especially The Enemies Of The Church.

  4. Chuck Anziulewicz says:

    While it’s true that the Constitution doesn’t define “marriage,” the federal government has complicated the issue by taking a vested interest in married couples for the purposes of tax law and Social Security (among the 1,138 legal benefits, protections, and responsibilities that are automatically bestowed on couples once they marry). Therefore this is not an issue that can be left up to the states to decide individually, since it wouldn’t do for a Gay couple that is legally married in Iowa, for instance, to become automatically UN-married once they decide to move somewhere else.

    Religious beliefs are irrelevant to this debate, because (1) the United States is not theocracy, and (2) churches will continue to be free to conduct or deny ceremonies to whomever they want.

    Procreation and parenting are irrelevant, since (1) couples do not have to marry to have children, and (2) the ability or even desire to have children is not a prerequisite for getting a marriage license.

    This is simply a matter of equal treatment under the law.

    But let me reassure you: The quest for marriage equality by Gay couples has absolutely nothing to do with Straight (i.e. heterosexual) couples. Nothing is changing for them. Nothing is happening to “traditional marriage.” Most people are Straight, and they will continue to date, get engaged, marry and build lives and families together as they always have. None of that will change by allowing Gay couples to do the same. This is really not any sort of a “sea change” for marriage, since the only difference between Gay and Straight couples is the gender of the two persons in the relationship.

    • Chuck Anziulewicz, when the courts legalized contraception, legalized no-fault divorce, and legalized abortion they already set the table for the destruction of marriage. Now with the further redefining of marriage, it’s value will diminish even more. Your assurance that “nothing will change” is a utopian promise. Marriage provides stability to families, which in turn provides stability to societies. Show us how our society is more stable now since the widespread disintegration of marriage and family life in our country! A country whose residents live for pleasure and self-gratification will never sustain itself.

    • Kenneth M. Fisher says:


      Are you saying that forcing a believing person who owns a bakery to catter to sodomites isn’t changing anything for those who believe in the Sanctity of marriage? Are you saying persecuting Ministers who rightly refuse to perform sodomite couplings is not changing anything for those Ministers, including priests in Canada. Or are you saying that you are a slave to sodomy so you demand that ALL our laws be changed to accomodate your sins?

      May God have mercy on an amoral Amerika!
      Viva Cristo Rey!
      God bless, yours in Their Hearts,
      Kenneth M. Fisher, Founding Director
      Concerned Roman Catholics of America, Inc.

    • Joel Torczon says:

      So, Chuck, affirming the gays in their perversion will get you and them to heaven, how again? Does this mean that it wasn’t necessary for Jesus to do what he did?

  5. St. Christopher says:

    “Mike Magee”: Your response is incorrect. A society is empowered to define obscenity and other actions and beliefs that are inconsistent with the well being of society. Homosexual sex is a perversion, dangerous to children, and leads to the degradation of society in many ways. Society, as well, can endorse and reward marriage, having more children, and various successes in life. Likewise, society can elect to discriminate against certain behaviors. The Supreme Court has lost all credibility regarding impartiality and is part of the present political power attempting to remake America. The Lawrence decision, issued only 17 years after Bowers, struck down the Texas anti-sodomy law under a new reading of the “liberty” interest. However, as Justice Scalia noted in his dissent, the striking of this law means that state laws against everything from prostitution, bestiality, incest, obscenity, homosexual marriage, and all forms of multiple-partner marriage, would now be subject to challenge. And, of course, that is precisely what is happening with polygamy in numerous cases. Interestingly, homosexuals are now emboldened, wanting to threaten the safety of our blood supply by demanding that they be permitted to give blood, and wanting to more easily get to more children by seeking to lower the age of sexual consent and lessen laws against child pornography and the impact of consensual man-boy relationships. Society may choose suicide by recognizing homosexuality as “normal” but it is not mandated to do so under the constitution, some discriminations are permissible and necessary.

  6. Self-proclaimed catholics? What do they mean catholics? They go against Roman Catholicism, they in-fact are proven heretics, protesting Roman Catholic doctrine, just like the protestants of yore and still today. If they were true Catholics, they would have struck down abortion and voted pro-life. Here God has given them great powers in their lofty positions to stop the hideous murder of our unborn innocent children and they didn’t use it. It is said in the holy bible to those of much is given, much will be expected. God allowed their positions of power on the NM State bench and in turn much was expected of them. They have failed God and countless innocent baby victims of abortion in the future. May Blessed Mother open their eyes and their hearts to see their evil deed and repent before it is too late and they lose their souls to the flames of eternal fires.

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