Another one down! Early yesterday afternoon, we learned that New Mexico became the 7th state this year and the 17th overall, along with the District of Columbia, to recognize same-sex marriages.
Here are a few takeaways from yesterday’s exciting event:
1) The decision was unanimous: The state’s supreme court, rather than the state’s legislature, granted the right to marry. The justices decided 5 to 0 in favor of marriage equality and used powerful language to boot: “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.”
2) Marriage starts now: The court’s decision is effective immediately. In fact, eight of the New Mexico’s 33 counties had already issued marriage licenses to over 1,000 gay and lesbian couples. The case got to the state’s highest court because county officials asked for clarification on the law and requested a uniform state policy. This immediacy provides a stark contrast to Illinois’ law, which won’t take effect (for the most part) until June 1, 2014 or even Hawaii, which had a 20-day waiting period after the governor signed the bill into law.
3) No state statute regarding same-sex marriages: New Mexico was a unique case because it was the only state in the country that didn’t specifically prohibit or allow same-sex marriages. However, its marriage statutes referred to male and female applicants. That fact, among others, lead the court to conclude that the legislature had always intended to only permit opposite-sex marriage.
4) We may have a winner: The winning argument for this case was that “denying same-sex couples violates equal protection and does not pass intermediate scrutiny in New Mexico.” This argument mirrors the one used in the prop 8 case Perry v. Brown and could provide the winning template for cases going forward. For a very good, in-depth legal analysis of the court’s decision, check out Ari Ezra Waldman’s post on Towleroad. You can also read the entire decision for yourself here.
Congrats New Mexico! What an exciting year it has been for marriage equality. I feel very fortunate to live during such a key moment in history. Can’t wait to see what lies ahead.