Make that 17. The Albuquerque Journal with the big news out of New Mexico:
The New Mexico Supreme Court on Thursday ruled in favor of same-sex couples, granting them all the same rights of marriage enjoyed by heterosexual couples.
The court’s 31-page opinion states, in part, that: “All rights, protections, and responsibilities that result from the marital relationship shall apply equally to both same-gender and opposite-gender married couples.” New Mexico joins 16 other states, the District of Columbia, and several Native American tribes in recognizing same-sex unions.
After eight of the state’s 33 counties began issuing marriage licenses to gay and lesbian couples earlier this year, county officials petitioned the court to provide a state-wide ruling. The court ruled that county clerks must issue marriage licenses to couples regardless of gender, and that licenses issued to same-sex couples prior to the ruling must be recognized. More than 1,400 same-sex couples have been issued marriage licenses in New Mexico since August.
The ruling is a victory for marriage equality advocates who had been unable to secure one of equal magnitude at the legislative level in the Land of Enchantment (now that's a state nickname!). While state statutes don't explicitly weigh in on the issue—neither prohibiting nor authorizing same-sex marriage—county clerks had historically denied marriage licenses to gay and lesbian couples. As the Associated Press points out, the Democratic-controlled statehouse has repeatedly turned down proposals for domestic partnership laws for same-sex couples, and likewise refused a push to allow voters to decide for themselves whether or not to legalize gay marriage.