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Gay marriage is now legal in New Mexico's most populous county, after a state court ruled Monday that denying the right to marry is unconstitutional.
Bernalillo County, where the city of Albuquerque is located, joins Santa Fe and Doña Ana counties as the third jurisdiction in New Mexico to offer gay marriage licenses. The court's ruling has set the stage for expanding gay and lesbian rights statewide, reports Reuters.
Will New Mexico soon be the 14th state to legalize gay marriage?
On Monday, Judge Alan Malott ordered the Bernalillo County clerk to issue marriage licenses to gay couples, ruling that New Mexico's statutes against same-sex marriage "are unconstitutional and unenforceable," reports the Albuquerque Journal.
New Mexico is somewhat unique among states which have historically barred same-sex marriage, as the state legislature did not explicitly ban the practice. The ban has been implied by the gendered nature of the marriage laws and general custom.
Judge Malott, however, ruled that denying marriage licenses to gay or lesbian couples would be tantamount to gender discrimination, which is explicitly prohibited by the state Constitution and its guarantee of equal protection.
Citing the recent U.S. Supreme Court case which struck down part of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), Judge Malott declared that discrimination against gays and lesbians in denying them the right to marriage constituted an "unfortunate, intolerable pattern" in the state.
While three counties, which include the state's capital Santa Fe, have agreed to issue gay marriage licenses, the state as a whole has not signed off on same-sex marriage.
Micah McCoy of the New Mexico American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) remarked that this case would be "useful in arguing [for gay marriage] in other counties," reports Reuters, but the decision is not binding on them.
Some residents, like Christine Butler, are disquieted by the court's decision, claiming that "same-sex couples showing a lot of affection" is not only "against God's law" but something she and her children should avoid seeing, reports The Associated Press.
Despite opponents, the same-sex marriage movement appears to have gained momentum in the Land of Enchantment. By this time next year, supporters hope the state may be closer to joining the states that allow same-sex marriage.
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