(Photo: Flickr / JobyOne)
A New Mexico State District Judge has in effect legalized same-sex marriage Monday, justifying his ruling by claiming that the state's constitution prohibited discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.
Alan Malott ordered that the Bernalillo County clerk should begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples today.
The American Civil Liberties Union, who earlier this month had asked the state to specifically rule to recognize a dying woman's marriage to her partner, were surprised by the scope of Malott's decision and his explicit recognition of same-sex marriage, calling it "monumental."
Their case, though, had been one of six that Malott had ruled on. In the hearing, neither the state nor the county objected to the requests of the lawsuits petitioning to legalize gay marriage.
"We were stunned and amazed [by the outcome,]" an ACLU attorney Laura Schauer Ives told the Associated Press.
New Mexico's attorney general's office will now have to determine whether the state's 30 other counties should begin issuing gay marriage licenses. Assistant Attorney General Scott Fuqua clarified that the current decision was not compulsory on counties outside of Bernalillo and Santa Fe.
However, not everyone has expressed support of the decision; a group of New Mexico Republican legislators intend to file a lawsuit to prevent county clerks from issuing gay marriage licenses, arguing that the court lacks the authority to legalize gay marriage.
"It is inexplicable how a district court just today discovered a new definition of marriage in our laws, when our marriage law has not been changed in over a century," Sen. William Sharer of Farmington told AP.
Malott's decision comes in the midst of what has been a chaotic summer for same-sex marriage and LGBT supporters in New Mexico, both in county clerk offices and court rooms. Last week, in the midst of the litigation making its way through the courts, a county clerk began issuing licenses, explaining that he had made his way through the state's marriage legal statutes and could find no reason not to proceed.
Just last week, a New Mexico court ruled that photographers, who had been sued after refusing to photograph a same-sex wedding, could not refuse services.
"There is a price, one that we all have to pay somewhere in our civic life. The Huguenins [the photographers] have to channel their conduct, not their beliefs, so as to leave space for other Americans who believe something different. That compromise is part of the glue that holds us together as a nation, the tolerance that lubricates the varied moving parts of us as a people," he wrote.