New Mexico Supreme Court: Same-Sex Marriage Is Constitutional, 17th State To Allow Gay Marriage

Some great news: Over in New Mexico, the Supreme Court has just declared same-sex marriage constitutional in the state, paving the way for legislation to be introduced for its passage. The court's legal reasoning was based on the state's Equal Protection Act. New Mexico joins 16 other states and the District of Columbia in allowing gay marriage.

Though New Mexico never officially banned same-sex marriage, the existing statues of marriage "have the effect of precluding same-gender couples from marrying," according to court documents. Eight of the state's 33 counties were already issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples — thanks to a clerk in southern New Mexico, who decided to just get on with it — but this is the first time it's been declared constitutional state-wide.

The Supreme Court didn't take the ruling lightly, and court documents reveal a lengthly reasoning behind the decision. Justice Edward Chávez brought up the parallels between how some courts and citizens view marriage between same-sex couples today, and how it repeats the history of how interracial marriage was once treated by the same parties.

Interracial marriages were once prohibited by laws in many states until the United States Supreme Court declared such laws unconstitutional and ordered an end to thediscriminatory treatment. Loving v. Virginia, 388 U.S. 1, 12 (1967) (“[R]estricting thefreedom to marry solely because of racial classifications violates the central meaning of theEqual Protection Clause.”). The same-gender couples in this case, all of whom are in long-term, committed relationships, some of whom have raised foster and adoptive children together, allege that they have a constitutional right under the Due Process and Equal Protection provisions of New Mexico’s Bill of Rights to enter into civil marriages and to enjoy the concomitant legal rights, protections, and responsibilities of marriage.

Basically: marriage is marriage, and love is love. Chávez also firmly ruled out the Bible as a means of telling all New Mexico citizens what to do because, uh, church and state.

Although this question arouses sincerely-felt religious beliefs both in favor of and against same-gender marriages, our analysis does not and cannot depend on religious doctrine without violating the Constitution.

Like in Hawaii, the ruling doesn't obligate clergy to marry same-sex couples, if clergy believe it to interfere with their religious freedom.

In short: The Supreme Court decision declared that barring same-sex couples from marriage was in effect, a discriminatory act that violated the state constitution's Equal Protection Clause.

Prohibiting same-gender marriages is not substantially related to the governmental interests advanced by the parties opposing same-gender marriage or to the purposes we have identified. Therefore, barring individuals from marrying and depriving them of the rights, protections, and responsibilities of civil marriage solely because of their sexual orientation violates the Equal Protection Clause under Article II, Section 18 of the New Mexico Constitution. We hold that the State of New Mexico is constitutionally required to allow same-gender couples to marry and must extend to them the rights, protections, and responsibilities that derive from civil marriage under New Mexico law.

There's gonna be a lot of celebrating in New Mexico today!