The Supreme Court in New Mexico has legalised equal marriage, declaring it is unconstitutional to deny marriage rights for same-sex couples.

On Thursday, the New Mexico State Supreme Court issued its ruling. Eight of the state’s 33 counties started issuing marriage licences to same-sex couples in August, when a county clerk in southern New Mexico independently decided to allow the ceremonies.

The court declared: “Prohibiting same-gender marriages is not substantially related to the governmental interests advanced by the parties opposing same-gender marriage or to the purposes we have identified. Therefore, 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 under Article II, Section 18 of the New Mexico Constitution. 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.”

State District Judge Alan Malott handed down an indirect ruling in September, which stated that equal marriage should be made legal, as he ruled that prohibiting same-sex marriages is a form of sexual discrimination.

County officials had asked judges to clarify the law and establish a uniform state policy on equal marriage.