(Albuquerque, NM, September 23, 2013)—Today, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of New Mexico, the national ACLU, the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR), the law firm of Sutin, Thayer & Browne APC, and other New Mexico attorneys are filing a brief with the New Mexico State Supreme Court on behalf of six couples seeking the freedom to marry for all same-sex couples in New Mexico. The brief argues that under the New Mexico Constitution, loving, committed same-sex couples should be able to marry and that New Mexico should respect the marriages of those who have already married.
“Every New Mexico court that has considered our claims has agreed that it is unconstitutional to deny marriage to loving, committed same-sex couples,” said ACLU-NM Legal Director Laura Schauer Ives. “We are hopeful that the New Mexico Supreme Court will agree that same-sex couples in our communities deserve full respect and recognition of their relationships, and issue a writ to resolve all claims on constitutional grounds.”
The couples filed their freedom to marry lawsuit in March. In late August, Judge Alan Malott of the Second Judicial District Court in Albuquerque ordered the county clerks of Bernalillo and Santa Fe counties to begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. All 33 New Mexico County Clerks then intervened in the lawsuit and filed a petition asking the New Mexico Supreme Court to provide a state-wide, binding resolution on the question of whether same-sex couples can marry. The Supreme Court ordered the six couples to file a brief in response to the petition and set oral argument for October 23.
“We agree with the 33 county clerks who say New Mexico families need certainty,” said NCLR Legal Director Shannon Minter. “New Mexico lacks a state-wide, binding resolution on the question of whether same-sex couples can marry. The more than 1,000 same-sex couples who have legally married in New Mexico over the past several weeks need to know that their marriages are valid and respected.”
“In recent years we have seen an astounding wave of support for the freedom to marry nationwide,” said Elizabeth Gill, staff attorney with the ACLU Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender Project. “It is time for New Mexico to join the growing list of states that recognize marriage equality for all loving and committed couples.”
Several other parties filed amicus briefs in support of the freedom to marry today, including UNM Law Professors George Bach and Max Minzner, the American Psychological Association, and Why Marriage Matters New Mexico, whose brief is authored by Mary Bonauto, one of the nation’s leading civil rights attorneys. Bonauto argued the first successful challenge against a state ban on marriage for same-sex couples, which laid the groundwork for the eventual overturn of the federal Defense of Marriage Act this summer.