Friday, December 20, 2013

New Mexico Supreme Court Validates Same-Sex Marriages

In Griego v. Oliver, (NM Sup. Ct., Dec. 19, 2013), the New Mexico Supreme Court, in a unanimous opinion, held that the state must allow same-sex couples to marry.  New Mexico is the only state whose laws do not explicitly either permit or prohibit same-sex marriage. (See prior related posting.)  However in its decision, the Supreme Court concluded that "the statutory scheme reflects a legislative intent to prohibit same-gender marriages."  It went on to hold that this prohibition is unconstitutional:
We conclude that the purpose of New Mexico marriage laws is to bring stability and order to the legal relationship of committed couples by defining their rights and responsibilities as to one another, their children if they choose to raise children together, and their property. 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.
In reaching its decision, the court added:
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.... Our holding will not interfere with the religious freedom of religious organizations or clergy because (1) no religious organization will have to change its policies to accommodate same-gender couples, and (2) no religious clergy will be required to solemnize a marriage in contravention of his or her religious beliefs.
Bloomberg News reports on the decision which makes New Mexico the 17th state to recognize same-sex marriage. [Thanks to Tom Rutledge for the lead.]