ACLU files suit seeking New Mexico same-sex marriage recognition

[JURIST] The American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico (ACLU-NM) [advocacy website] on Thursday filed a lawsuit [complaint, PDF] in a New Mexico state court on behalf of two same-sex couples [ACLU backgrounder] seeking the legal right to marry. According to the complaint, the country clerk denied the plaintiffs' application for marriage licenses in March solely because the couples were "of the same sex." The plaintiffs seek a declaration that it is unlawful for the state to prohibit marriage on the basis of sex or sexual orientation on grounds that such denial violates the New Mexico Constitution [text, PDF] and contravenes "fundamental rights and liberties." In addition, the plaintiffs seek to enjoin county authorities to implement and enforce extant state marriage laws without "discrimination on the basis of sex or sexual orientation." The complaint asserts that the current state of enforcement evinces entrenched discrimination towards the LGBT community:

Marriage plays a unique and central social, legal, and economic role in American society. Being married reflects the commitment that a couple makes to one another, as well as representing a public acknowledgement of the value, legitimacy, depth, and permanence of the married couple's private relationship. Marriage is also the sole legal institution in New Mexico through which couples can create a family unit that the state recognizes and protects. ... Conversely, denial to some couples of the status of being married in the eyes of the State conveys the State's view that the couple's private relationship is of lesser value and unworthy of legal recognition and support. This public rejection of the Plaintiffs' most significant relationship damages them and their children, and promotes the view that their relationships and families are inferior to those of other committed couples.
According to the ACLU, New Mexico is currently the only state [press release] that neither expressly recognizes nor bans same-sex relationships through marriage or civil union. However, other challenges have arisen. Sante Fe Mayor David Cross [official website] on Tuesday announced his support [Sante Fe New Mexican report] for a resolution ordering county clerks across the state to issue marriage licenses same-sex couples. The ACLU in turn praised [press release] the mayor's announcement.

Issues surrounding same-sex marriage [JURIST backgrounder] remain controversial throughout the US. Earlier this month Vermont's House of Representatives approved a bill [JURIST report] that would require out-of-state employers to provide the same health care coverage to same-sex couples as employees with an opposite-sex spouse. Also in March the Colorado House of Representative voted 39-26 in favor of a bill to legalize civil unions [JURIST report] which explicitly provides same-sex couples with benefits already enjoyed by opposite-sex couples, including dependent insurance coverage and the ability to adopt a partner's child. Later this month the US Supreme Court will hear arguments in two cases related to same-sex marriage. In Hollingsworth v. Perry [docket; cert. petition, PDF], the court will examine the validity of Proposition 8 [JURIST news archive], a California referendum that revoked same-sex marriage rights. In United States v. Windsor [docket; cert. petition, PDF], the court will examine the constitutionality of Section 3 of DOMA. Same-sex marriage is currently legal in nine US states and the District of Columbia.

 

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