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Same-sex marriage approved in New Mexico

SANTA FE, New Mexico--The New Mexico Supreme Court ruled on Thursday to allow same-sex marriage across the state, ending legal ambiguity that had produced a patchwork arrangement in which some counties permitted gay nuptials while others prohibited them.

The ruling makes New Mexico the 17th U.S. state to legalize gay and lesbian marriage, and comes amid growing momentum on the issue that saw the governors of Hawaii and Illinois sign bills last month to permit same-sex weddings in their states.

“Denying same-gender couples the right to marry and thus depriving them and their families of the rights, protections and responsibilities of civil marriage violates the equality demanded by the equal protection clause of the New Mexico Constitution,” Justice Edward Chavez wrote in a 31-page opinion.

After the ruling, about 100 supporters of same-sex marriage gathered in the chilly winter evening in front of the Supreme Court building in downtown Santa Fe, clutching candles and huddling close in the cold.

“To have this verdict come down in this season of darkness is truly a miracle,” said the Reverend Telitha Arnold, of the United Church of Santa Fe.

Now that same-sex marriage was legal in New Mexico, declared Santa Fe resident Richard Bell, the next step is to take the campaign to other states. “This is just the beginning,” said Bell. “Tonight is an opportunity to celebrate. Tomorrow the work continues.”

The New Mexico high court, in a unanimous ruling, found no state law that expressly forbade gay and lesbian couples the right to wed, and said that barring such marriages amounted to unlawful discrimination based on sexual orientation.

As a remedy, the court required civil marriage to be construed as “the voluntary union of two persons to the exclusion of all others,” regardless of gender.

It added that the rights, protections and responsibilities of marriage would apply equally to all, in a decision that highlighted the shifting legal and social landscape on same-sex marriage in the United States.

'Everything we hoped for'

“This is everything we've hoped for,” said Rose Griego, one of the plaintiffs in the case heard by the court. “We're very proud to be New Mexicans today. It's very nice to be part of this march through history.”

Polls have shown increasing public support for gay marriage, and civil rights groups have prevailed at a number of courthouses and in an increasing number of state legislatures. Ten years ago, no U.S. states permitted gay marriage.

Stepping into an intensifying and often bitter national debate over same-sex matrimony, the New Mexico Supreme Court agreed in September to settle the matter for the state after some counties began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, either unilaterally or after lower-court rulings.

In one ruling earlier this year, a New Mexico judge upheld the right to gay marriage in a case that applied to counties encompassing the state's largest city, Albuquerque, and the state capital of Santa Fe.

Later, judges in a number of other counties asked clerks to justify their practice of not issuing same-sex marriage licenses. Many clerks began issuing such licenses to same-sex couples rather than go back to court.

New Push for Amendment?

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