New Mexico Legalizes Same-Sex Marriage, Caps Off Big Year For Marriage Equality And Liberty

A 17th state legalizes gay marriage. There's no turning back.


Earlier today, the New Mexico Supreme Court issued a ruling legalizing same-sex marriage throughout the state:

(CNN) – The New Mexico Supreme Court has ruled the state may not deny same-sex couples the freedom to marry, concluding current laws are unconstitutional.

The ruling Thursday is another victory for gay and lesbian couples nationwide seeking to legally wed. New Mexico would become the 17th state plus the District of Columbia to allow such unions.

The unanimous ruling ordered county clerks to begin issuing marriage licenses to qualified same-sex couples.

“Barring individuals from marrying and depriving them of the rights, protections, and responsibilities of civil marriage solely because of their sexual orientation violates the Equal Protection Clause,” of the state’s constitution,” said the 31-page ruling from all five state justices.

“We hold that the State of New Mexico is constitutionally required to allow same-gender couples to marry and must extend to them the rights, protections, and responsibilities that derive from civil marriage under New Mexico law,” the ruling said.

The decision adds clarity, uniformity, and finality to an issue that had divided the state.

Before the decision, eight counties had been issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples in recent months. Now those marriages were affirmed to be valid and must be recognized statewide.

This makes New Mexico the 17th state in the United States to legalize same-sex marriage, and marriage equality is also the law of the land in the District of Columbia and on several Indian Reservations around the country. It also caps off a year in which the tide has turned significantly in favor of same-sex marriage in the United States.It was just over a year ago that three states voted in a referendum to legalize same-sex marriage while a fourth, Minnesota, rejected same sex-marriage. Since then, three more states (Rhode IslandMinnesota, and Delaware) have passed marriage equality bills, the Supreme Court struck down DOMA’s Section Three and allowed the ruling striking down California’s Proposition 8 to stand, and New Jersey’s courts legalized same-sex marriage in the Garden State. Just last month, Illinois and Hawaii added their names to the list. That’s an increase of ten states in thirteen months, and we’re now at the point where more than 1/3 of the population of the United States lives in a jurisdiction that allows gays and lesbians to get married.

I wouldn’t expect things to move quite so quickly going forward, though. The number of remaining states where a legislative or popular vote approval of same-sex marriage is realistic at this point is quite small, with Oregon and Colorado considered by most people to be the most likely states where either the state legislature or a referendum approving same-sex marriage is likely to be approved in the next couple years. In other states, we’re going to have to wait for this issue to be fought out in Court over the coming years. In that regard, there are lawsuits pending in a number of states, including Pennsylvania, Michigan, Virginia, and North Carolina. All those cases are in Federal Court, though, and still at the District Court level so there is still a lot of time that will need to elapse before we get a final word in any of those matters.

Nonetheless, this year marked some tremendous gains for the cause of marriage equality and individual liberty and it’s clear that, at this point, there really is no turning back. At some point, sooner rather than later I suspect, same-sex marriages will be recognized nationwide just as interracial marriages were recognized after the Supreme Court decision in Loving v. Virginia. There’s going to be very little that the opponents of equality and liberty can do to stop that from happening.

FILED UNDER: Gender Issues, Law and the Courts, US Politics, , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed for too young in July 2021.


  1. grumpy realist says:

    Sorrowful article from Rod Dreher on how this just proves the US is going to pot in 3…2…1….

  2. minnman says:

    “It was just over a year ago that three states voted in a referendum to legalize same-sex marriage while a fourth, Minnesota, rejected same sex-marriage.”

    Quick but important correction: Minnesota voted in 2012 to reject a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage, the first state in the nation to do so. This campaign led to legalization in 2013.

  3. Stonetools says:

    Thank you, President Obama and the Democrats for pushing this issue and gay rights in general- right, Doug?

  4. Laurence Bachmann says:

    @Stonetools: Joe Biden deserves way more credit than the President for leading on SSM. Also for forcing the President’s hand. I don’t resent BO’s hesitation–lots of pols do the expedient thing. But that’s not admirable or praiseworthy.

  5. Christopher M says:

    @grumpy realist: Rod’s too exhausted from tying himself in knots trying to defend the “Duck Dynasty” guy (but trying not to defend him TOO much) to even notice this.

  6. Stonetools says:

    @Laurence Bachmann:

    But Joe is a Democrat and a senior Obama Administration official, no?
    What I’m pointing out is that Doug seems unwilling to give the Obama Administration and the Democrats credit for leading on this issue. Marriage equality is doing as well as it is because DEMOCRATS have advocated forcefully for gay rights and have made it part of their political platform, and they did so even back when it was politically unpopular. Kerry’s advocacy of the issue may have even cost him the 2004 election.
    Now Doug may want to think of this as some kind of ” movement ” totally divorced from politics but the reality is that the party he cannot for vote for is the one who is fighting for and winning the battle for gay rights and he doesn’t want to give them any credit for it.

  7. Gromitt Gunn says:

    Another 17-ish states directly border another state (or country) that allows same-sex marriage, so their residents are going to have an extremely easy path to get a license, come home, and expect to have the same rights and responsibilities as their neighbors. It truly is just a matter of time (and a lot of money and work) before its the law of the land.

  8. steve s says:

    A nice touch is that the bigots who fought/fight gay marriage will live for decades with the normalization of gay marriages ‘shoved down their throat’.