New Mexico is the latest state to start allowing gays and lesbians to marry, as the Santa Fe County clerk began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples this week.


A couple in Sante Fe, New Mexico, tenderly exchange rings and legally marry. 

Judge Sarah Singleton, ruling on a lawsuit brought by two Santa Fe men wishing to marry, issued an order Thursday directing the clerk’s office in Santa Fe County to issue licenses to gay and lesbian couples, the Associated Press reports. Clerk Geraldine Salazar’s office began providing the licenses shortly after 1:30 p.m. today, with the first going to county commissioner Liz Stefanics and Linda Siegle, a lobbyist for the LGBT rights group Equality New Mexico. The two men who filed the suit, Alexander Hanna and Yon Hudson, were also among those receiving licenses.

Other courts and elected officials are expected to weigh in before there is a statewide decision on marriage equality. New Mexico does not currently have a law prohibiting or allowing same-sex marriage, and marriage equality activists are trying to get a case before the state Supreme Court in hopes of a favorable ruling.

“We couldn’t be happier for the couples in Dona Ana County – and those across the state who will soon, no doubt, make their way there – who have waited far too long for public sentiment and political courage to evolve far enough to publicly acknowledge their relationships as being just as equal as that of their neighbors,” says Patrick Davis, Executive Director of ProgressNow New Mexico, a progressive advocacy group working to advance marriage equality in the state.

From ProgressNow New Mexico’s blog:

In April, the City of Santa Fe passed a resolution outlining the case for same-sex marriages to be recognized under current state law. The resolution acknowledged that New Mexico law recognizes marriage as a contract between two gender-neutral parties and that the state’s Human Rights Act prohibits discrimination based on sex. The state’s marriage license form provides for a bride and groom, though statue permits clerks to use a form that substantially complies with that format. Ellins issued licenses in the same format but without gender-specific references.

After couples in Albuquerque and Santa Fe filed suit earlier this year to require clerks in their counties to issue licenses, the state’s attorney general filed a response in July stating:

“New Mexico’s guarantee of equal protection to its citizens demands that same-sex couples be permitted to enjoy the benefits of marriage in the same way and to the same extent as other New Mexico citizens.”

The State Supreme Court last week denied a request to hear the Albuquerque and Santa Fe cases, returning the matters to local district courts.

A history of marriage equality in New Mexico:
Feb. 20, 2004: Sandoval County Clerk Victoria Dunlap issues marriage licenses to 32 same-sex couples (the “Sandoval 64”) before then-Attorney General Patricia Madrid requests intervention from the District Court after the AG issues an advisory opinion stating that the law did not expressly permit it.

Feb. 22, 2013: A Constitutional Amendment sponsored by Rep. Brian Egolf (D-Santa Fe) specifically permitting same-sex marriages fails to pass a state House committee after intense debate. Many aruged that the current law permitted same-sex marriage, negating the need for an amendment. Others argued against marriage equality outright.

March, 2013: Santa Fe Mayor David Coss sponsors a resolution endorsing a legal opinion by City Attorney Geno Zamora providing for same-sex marriages to be permitted under current state law.

March, 2013: Citing the Santa Fe legal opinion, a same-sex couple in Albuquerque applies for and is denied a marriage license in Bernalillo County. The couple sues the county requesting the court to order the issuance of the license.

March, 2013: State Rep. Bill McCamley (D-Las Cruces) requests a formal opinion on marriage equality from Attorney General Gary King.

April 25, 2013: The Santa Fe City Council adopts the resolution providing for the recognition of same-sex marriage under current law and encouraging clerks to issue licenses.

June 6, 2013: Attorney General Gary King declines to issue a formal opinion on the law while the question is before the court, but states that he personally supports marriage equality and believes supporters of equality will likely prevail in the future.

June, 2013: Citing the Santa Fe legal opinion, a Santa Fe county couple applies and is denied a marriage license. They promptly sue.

July 3, 2013: Plaintiffs in the Santa Fe case ask the state Supreme Court to intervene.

July 23, 2013: Attorney General King files a response to the Supreme Court case stating that the state’s equal protection laws require the state to extend marriage benefits to all couples.

August, 2013: The State Supreme Court declines to weigh in on the matter before local district courts, but encourages the courts to grant “expedited review” to the cases.

August 21, 2013: Dona Ana County Clerk Lynn Ellins issues licenses to same-sex couples.

Photo: ProgressNow New Mexico