ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – An Albuquerque judge on Monday ordered the clerk of New Mexico’s most-populous county to join two other counties in the state in issuing marriage licenses for same-sex couples.
State District Judge Alan Malott ruled that New Mexico’s constitution prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.
The decision came in a case involving a lesbian couple who sought an emergency ruling because one of them is dying and they wanted to make certain the state would recognize their marriage, which happened last week in Santa Fe.
The Bernalillo County clerk’s office in Albuquerque plans to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples at 8 a.m. today.
Laura Schauer Ives, a lawyer for the American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico, called it a “monumental ruling” and said the group didn’t expect such a broad decision.
However, it’s uncertain whether clerks in the state’s 30 other counties, who were not defendants in the lawsuit, would use the judge’s ruling as a signal that they can issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. The state was a defendant in the case.
The lesbian couple married Friday at a Santa Fe hospital after a judge in a separate case ordered the Santa Fe County clerk to issue same-sex licenses. The clerk of Dona Ana County in southern New Mexico decided on his own early last week to recognize same-sex marriage.
The hearing on Monday originally was scheduled on an emergency request to force Bernalillo County to issue a marriage license to Jen Roper, who is dying of cancer, and Angelique Neuman because of Roper’s cancer. However, that changed after the two unexpectedly were able to wed.
“It’s been a long, long fight,” Neuman said. “I’m glad things went our way.”
The couple last week joined a lawsuit brought by the ACLU on behalf of five other lesbian couples.
One of those couples, Tanya Struble and Therese Councilor, of Jemez Springs, plan to get their marriage license this morning. But they’re unsure whether to marry immediately or wait for a ceremony.
“We’ve never done this,” Struble said after the court hearing.
Dona Ana County Clerk Lynn Ellins began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples last Wednesday.
A group of Republican legislators is planning to file a lawsuit to stop clerks from issuing licenses to same-sex couples.
Ellins, however, says, “I think the train has pulled out of the station.”