Just a day after State District Judge Alan Malott ruled that the constitution of New Mexico prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation, and therefore the state has marriage equality by default, the issuing of licenses to same-sex couples has begun in some cities; when clerks’ offices opened at 8:00 in the morning on August 27, already over a hundred people were waiting in Albuquerque alone.
The first couple to receive a license were Karen Schmiege, sixty-nine, and her partner of twenty-five years, sixty-one-year-old Patricia Catlett. Schmiege said, according to the Huffington Post, “I’m so excited I can’t stand it,” as they signed the papers.
The ruling by Judge Malott came shortly after Santa Fe’s District Judge Sarah Singleton ordering the country clerk to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples on August 23. Malott’s ruling was seen as longer-reaching, as he directly declared that marriage equality is the law of the land, as well as surprising, as he had only been asked to rule on the state recognizing the marriage of Jen Roper, who has terminal cancer, to her wife, Angelique Neuman, on her death certificate.
Instead, Malott requested permission to rule on the broader case brought by the couple in question, as well as five others who sought marriage licenses. Neither the state or its counties objected, giving him the authority to declare that nondiscrimination language in the state’s constitution made anything short of full marriage equality unconstitutional.
However, according to Assistant Attorney General Scott, the decision is not binding outside of Santa Fe and Bernalillo Counties; it is unknown if the twenty-eight other counties in the state will begin issuing licenses to same-sex couples as well.
A lawsuit is being planned by a group of Republican lawmakers; among them is Senator William Sharer, who said that making laws is the responsibility of the state Legislature and the governor, not district judges or county clerks. “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,” he said, according to Politico. (New Mexico repealed its law against interracial marriage in 1866.)
Roper and Neuman, the couple who brought the lawsuit, were married at the Santa Fe hospital Roper is being treated in. Neuman told Politico, “It’s been a long, long fight. I’m glad things went our way.”