New Mexico Supreme Court Rules For Marriage Equality

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The New Mexico Supreme Court has made a landmark decision regarding marriage equality. The panel of five judges ruled that same-sex marriages were legal across the state.

An excerpt of the decision reads:

We conclude that although none of New Mexico’s marriage statutes specifically prohibit same-gender marriages, when read as a whole, the statutes have the effect of precluding same-gender couples from marrying and benefiting from the rights, protections, and responsibilities that flow from a civil marriage. Same-gender couples who wish to enter into a civil marriage with another person of their choice and to the exclusion of all others are similarly situated to opposite-gender couples who want to do the same, yet they are treated differently.

Because same-gender couples (whether lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender, hereinafter “LGBT”) are a discrete group which has been subjected to a history of discrimination and violence, and which has inadequate political power to protect itself from such treatment, the classification at issue must withstand intermediate scrutiny to be constitutional. Accordingly, New Mexico may neither constitutionally deny same-gender couples the right to marry nor deprive them of the rights, protections, and responsibilities of marriage laws, 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.”

In other words, the opponents of same-sex marriage in the state could not prove that the reasons that gay men and women should not marry were justifiable under the state's existing constitution. The judges found that the reasons for opposing marriage equality came down to simply one explanation: prejudice.

The decision to allow same-sex marriage would make New Mexico the 17th state in the United States where homosexual men and women would be able to be legally married. While this is a victory for many advocates in the push for marriage equality, it is still an uphill battle. This ruling means that a gay couple is only able to form a legal union in about one third of the United States. The number has jumped significantly in the past few years, signaling a momentum that may carry gay advocates towards marriage equality in all 50 states.

Image via Wikimedia Commons

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