A judge in the US state of New Mexico has indirectly ruled that equal marriage be made legal, as he ruled that prohibiting same-sex marriages is a form of sexual discrimination.
The New Mexico constitution does not expressively prohibit same-sex couples from marrying but no recognition of same-sex relationships existed within the state.
Commenting on the judge’s unexpected decision, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) said it was “monumental”.
State District Judge Alan Malott handed down the ruling on Monday, the case for which had been started by a request by a dying woman who asked that the state recognise on her death certificate her long-time lesbian relationship.
After a short hearing, during which noone objected to the woman’s request, Judge Malott ruled in the woman’s favour, but also went further to make a broader ruling that the state cannot prevent same-sex couples from obtaining marriage licences.
Laura Schauer Ives, an attorney with the ACLU, said she was “stunned and amazed”, at the judge’s ruling. Several counties have said they will begin issuing same-sex marriage licences since the ruling.
Assistant Attorney General Scott Fugua, issued a warning that the judge’s decision wasn’t as broad as initially thought, and that it only applied to the two counties in question in that particular case, rather than all thirty in the state.
It is currently unclear how all of the counties will take the ruling my Judge Malott, given the warning by the Assistant Attorney General.
A county in the state last week began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples despite the state not recognising same-sex marriages.
The county clerk for Doña Ana County, Lynn Ellins, released a statement on Wednesday saying that New Mexico’s marriage laws were “gender neutral” and to ban same-sex couples from marrying violated the United States Constitution and he went onto say that “I see no reason to make committed couples in Dona Ana County wait another minute to marry.”