Marriage Equality breaks out in New Mexico

Posted by AzBlueMeanie:

Something remarkable is happening in New Mexico over the past week. After a state court judge ruled last week that the state's constitution prohibits discrimination against same-sex couples, several counties in New Mexico have begun issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. N.M.
judge orders county to issue same-sex marriage licenses
:

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 gay and lesbian couples.

State District Judge Alan Malott ruled that New Mexico’s
constitution prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual
orientation.

The Bernalillo County clerk’s office in Albuquerque plans to start
issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples at 8 a.m. Tuesday.

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 by the judge.

The lesbian couple was able to get 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 first thing Tuesday morning. But
they’re unsure whether to be married immediately or wait for a ceremony
that can be attended by family and friends.

“We’ve never done this,” Struble said in an interview after the court hearing.

Talking Points Memo adds today, Sixth N.M. County Offering Marriage Licenses:

New Mexico's Taos County became the sixth county to offer marriage
licenses to same-sex couples on Tuesday after State District Judge Jeff
McElroy ordered Taos County Clerk Anna Martinez to issue a license to a
same-sex couple.

McElroy's order came after a lawsuit brought by Dale Schuette and Reg
Stark who were denied a license at the clerk's office on Monday.
Besides Taos County, Doña Ana, Santa Fe, Valencia, San Miguel and
Bernalillo counties are currently offering licenses to same-sex couples.
Bernalillo county is especially notable because it's the largest county
in the state.

Meanwhile, the New Mexico San Juan County Clerk has said she's
waiting for a court order to start offering licenses to same-sex
couples.

"I'm waiting for someone to sue me, and that's certainly something they can do," San Juan County clerk Debbie Holmes said according to The Daily Times of Farmington, New Mexico. "I feel like I need to follow the law as I've been told how to do it."

Of course, Tea-Publican state legislators in New Mexico are feverishly working to find a way to take away the equal protection under law to marriage granted by the state's courts to same-sex couples.

The path to marriage equality — equal protection under the Constitution — runs through the courts. Gay marriage backers head to court:

After years of legislative and political victories, supporters of
same-sex marriage are running out of states where friendly politicians
can deliver on legislation legalizing unions between gay and lesbian
couples. So marriage equality supporters are shifting tactics, focusing
on courts of law rather than state legislatures.

In at least 15 states, same-sex couples have brought lawsuits aimed
at getting their unions recognized. The cases fall into three broad
categories: One set seeks to overturn state bans on same-sex marriage.
Another seeks to force states to recognize marriages that occurred in
other states. And a third deals with some of the less romantic aspects
of marriage, like divorce.

“We all, as a movement, recognize that we got to where we are in
terms of marriage equality by pursuing all avenues,” said Brian Moulton,
the legal director at the Human Rights Campaign. “There are some more
places — Illinois, Hawaii, New Jersey — where we may be able to advance
marriage through the state legislatures, but beyond that there are a lot
of states that have constitutional amendments that are going to have to
be rolled back by a popular vote” or by the courts.

In the months after a Supreme Court ruling striking down key elements of
the Defense of Marriage act, the courts have been the venue of choice
for backers of same-sex marriage.

* * *

[I]n Texas, the state Supreme Court said Friday
it will schedule oral arguments for Nov. 5, on whether two gay couples
that were married in other states can get divorced. One couple was
granted a divorce in February 2010, in Austin; a court in Dallas granted
another couple a divorce in 2009. Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott
(R) filed motions to intervene in both cases, saying state law both
prohibits same-sex marriage and prohibits any legal recognition of those
marriages — which includes granting a divorce.

Earlier this month, three gay couples in Tennessee filed suit seeking
to overturn their state’s same-sex marriage ban. In Cincinnati, a
federal judge ruled
that a dying man could be listed as married on his death certificate
after he and his partner were married in Maryland last month. Jim
Obergefell will be listed as the surviving spouse when his partner, who
suffers from Lou Gehrig’s disease, passes away, the Associated Press
reported.

A couple in Louisville filed suit last month to overturn Kentucky’s ban. A New Orleans couple filed a lawsuit
seeking to force Louisiana to recognize their marriage after they
traveled to Iowa, where same-sex unions are legal. Lawsuits are also
pending in Arkansas, Illinois, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Nevada and
Virginia.

* * *

The lawsuits highlight the different interpretations of a U.S. Supreme Court opinion
issued earlier this year that struck down the heart of the Defense of
Marriage Act, the 1996 law that defined marriage as solely between a man
and a woman. The decision, in United States v. Windsor, declared the
prohibition on federal recognition of legally married couples
unconstitutional.

Backers of same-sex marriage say the court’s opinion opens the door
for challenges to existing bans. Supporters of the bans, though, say the
Court left it up to the states to decide how to define marriage, and
whether to ban unions between same-sex couples.

The court cases reflect the political reality that same-sex marriage
backers don’t have many avenues for legislative advancement. Of the 14
states where Democrats control both chambers of the state legislature
and the governor’s mansion, same-sex marriage is legal in nine, and
another four permit civil unions (Socially conservative West Virginia is
the lone Democratic state that has not allowed same-sex unions).

Beyond those blue states, same-sex marriage backers have had trouble
winning over Republican supporters. Only one legislative chamber
controlled by Republicans — the New York state Senate — has voted to
pass a same-sex marriage bill. That leaves backers of marriage equality
searching for new paths.

“Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke of the many ‘methodologies of social
change,’ all legitimate parts of the American system,” said Evan
Wolfson, president of the pro-gay rights Freedom to Marry. “We are
employing all of them — litigation, legislation, ballot measures, public
engagement and direct action.”

In the Civil Rights Movement, always remember to "keep your eyes on the prize."

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