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Same-sex marriage (SSM) in New Mexico:

NM Supreme Court rules in favor of SSM (Cont'd).
SSMs start almost immediately.
Reactions to the ruling.

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Discussion of his topic is continued from the previous essay

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star symbol2013-DEC-19: The New Mexico Supreme Court issues ruling in favor of marriage equality (Cont'd):

One effect of this ruling is that same-sex married couples in New Mexico will now have access to 1,138 benefits and grants from numerous federal programs for married couples, on a par with opposite-sex married couples. The U.S. Supreme Court determined this in their ruling Windsor v. United States during 2013-JUN.

Justice Chavez wrote:

​"Interpreting our statutes to authorize committed same-gender couples to enter into civil marriage will grant them the rights and privileges available to opposite-gender married couples in approximately one thousand statutes and federal regulations that refer to a person’s marital status, thereby avoiding a constitutional challenge on that basis." 6

The ruling also discussed the level of "scrutiny" that courts should apply to cases involving marriage equality. The options are: rational, intermediate, or strict scrutiny. This court advocates an intermediate level of scrutiny. They ruled:

"... the LGBT community is a discrete group that has been subjected to a history of purposeful discrimination, and it has not had sufficient political strength to protect itself from such discrimination.

​“When fundamental rights are affected by legislation, the United States Supreme Court has applied strict scrutiny when determining whether the legislation is constitutional. However, regarding marriage, the United States Supreme Court does not demand 'that every state regulation which relates in any way to the incidents of or prerequisites for marriage must be subjected to rigorous [a.k.a. strict] scrutiny'."

Justice Chavez' ruling also noted that the U.S. Supreme Court in Windsor v. United States "left unanswered the level of scrutiny it was applying to same-gender marriages." Justice Chavez concluded:

"... from the United States Supreme Court’s equivocation in these cases that whether the right to marry is a fundamental right requiring strict scrutiny is a question that remains unanswered. We do not need to answer this question here because Plaintiffs prevail when we apply an intermediate scrutiny level of review under an equal protection analysis."

According to the court, under intermediate scrutiny, the state offered no sufficient reason for denying same-sex couples the right to marry.

The justices noted that, in the past, many states had banned interracial marriages. They said that, in order for the state to ban couples from marriage, because of their racial or their gender makeup, or for any other reason, defendants would have to demonstrate that the state had substantial interest in preserving "traditional marriage." In today's culture, this refers to marriage limited to one woman and one man. Supporters of a ban on same-sex marriage argued that such couples cannot procreate by themselves. The court rejected argument, saying:

"Procreation has never been a condition of marriage under New Mexico law, as evidenced by the fact that the aged, the infertile, and those who choose not to have children are not precluded from marrying."

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2013-DEC-19: Reactions to the NM Supreme Court's decision:

  • Across the state, counties started to issue marriage licenses almost immediately after the court decision was announced. One couple were two Aztec women Luciana Velasquez and Deann Toadlena. They were married under Christmas lights at Orchard Park in downtown Farmington, NM. Deann Toadlena said:

    "We’ve been waiting for seven years. It’s the best day of my life. Everything I wanted was given to me today." 7

  • Shannon Minter, legal director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR), commented:

    "Today’s decision by the New Mexico Supreme Court is a powerful affirmation that same-sex couples are equal members of New Mexico’s diverse culture and must be given the same legal protections and respect as other families."

  • Lambda Legal, a prominent LGBT advocacy organization, issued a statement saying:

    "This beautiful unanimous decision explicitly underscores the argument we and our sister organizations have long made: denying same-sex couples the ability to marry imposes significant emotional and dignitary harm and is discrimination, pure and simple." 1

  • Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign said:

    "The court is entirely correct that denying lesbian and gay couples the same rights as everyone else is fundamentally unjust. Regardless of where you live, all people should have the ability to marry the person they love, and now the legislature must not do anything to turn back the clock in the Land of Enchantment." 2

  • Two Roosevelt County officials, County Clerk Donna Carpenter and her chief deputy Janet Collins resigned their posts on DEC-20. They felt unable to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, presumably because of their religious beliefs.

Pat Davis of ProgressNowNM -- the state’s main advocate group promoting marriage equality -- said:

"We respect that these women made a tough decision. In the end, their decision to resign is honorable if they feel that they are unable to execute their duties under the law. All of our county clerks deserve credit for coming together to ask for a definitive decision on this issue of equality and we look forward to every clerk in the state offering licenses to every loving couple in their county." 3

There are 33 county clerks in New Mexico. Many, if not most, would have a chief deputy. The lack of news reports of other resignations would seem to indicate that the vast majority of county officials are experiencing no difficulty in upholding their oath of office. Their oath requires them to follow court orders -- and in this case, provide marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

  • Legal Counsel Jim Campbell of Alliance Defending Freedom, a conservative legal advocacy group, said:

    "The government’s purpose for recognizing marriage is to bring together one man and one woman as husband and wife to be a father and a mother to any children their union produces. The New Mexico Supreme Court ignored that time-tested understanding of marriage and replaced it with the recently conceived notion that marriage means special government recognition for close relationships." 4

  • Ari Ezra Waldman. writing for Towleroad -- a gay positive web site -- analyzed the New Mexico Supreme Court's decision:

    "The constitution--in this case, a state constitution--guarantees equal protection of the law. Denying marriage licenses to certain individuals simply because of their sex or sexual orientation is unequal treatment that the state has to justify. Because the LGBT community has long been a victim of institutionalized and insidious discrimination, the state has a high burden to meet, a burden we call 'intermediate scrutiny.' The supposed justification that restricting marriage to opposite sex couples prevents accidental children out of wedlock is no justification for discrimination because marriage has never [necessarily] had anything to do with raising children. Because the state cannot meets its burden, the discrimination is unconstitutional. Gays can marry."

In the past, New Mexico issued marriage licenses to any opposite-sex couple of sufficient age as long as they were not too closely related genetically. Proof of fertility or proof of intent to procreate has never been required.

  • Steve Terrell of Santa Fe New Mexican wrote:
    • "City Councilor Patti Bushee and former state Democratic Party chairman Javier Gonzales, two of the three candidates running in the Santa Fe mayor’s race, praised the decision, as did two Democratic gubernatorial candidates, Alan Webber and Gary King, as well as Santa Fe Mayor David Coss and current state Democratic Party Chairman Sam Bregman.

    • Former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson, a longtime Republican who ran as a Libertarian in the 2012 presidential election, sent an email, saying, 'This ruling is in line with our basic values as a state. In New Mexico, we don’t turn our back on any member of our families.'

    • Democrats in New Mexico’s congressional delegation " U.S. Senators Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich and U.S. Reps. Ben Ray Luján and Michelle Lujan Grisham " issued a joint news release applauding the decision." 5

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This topic continues in the next essay

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. Lisa Keen, "NM Supreme Court: Marriage Equality A Reality for Same-Sex Couples," The Rainbow Times, 2013-DEC-19. at:
  2. Aaron Blake, "New Mexico Supreme Court legalizes gay marriage," Washington Post, 2013-DEC-19, at:
  3. "NM County Officials Resign Over Marriage Equality," The Rainbow Times, 2013-DEC-20. at:
  4. Bethany Monk, "New Mexico Supreme Court Rules in Favor of Same-Sex Marriage," CitizenLink, 2013-DEC-19, at:
  5. Steve Terrell, "Gay marriage allowed in New Mexico," Santa Fe New Mexican, 2013-DEC-19, at:
  6. Text of the "New Mexico Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage," Scribd, 2013-DEC-19, at:
  7. "County clerk quits over gay marriage ruling," Santa Fe New Mexican, 2013-DEC-21, at:

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Copyright © 2013 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2013-DEC-20
Latest update: 2013-DEC-23
Author: B.A. Robinson

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