Santa Fe City Attorney: ‘NM Does Not Prohibit Same-Sex Marriage’

Editor | - March 19, 2013

Mayor David Coss and Councilor Patti J. Bushee Encourage New Mexico County Clerks to Issue Marriage Licenses to Same-Sex Couples

Photo: Flickr user J.R. VigiL

(From a City of Santa Fe media release)

Mayor David Coss and Councilor Patti Bushee announced Tuesday, March 19 that they are sponsoring a Resolution expressing support for gay marriage in New Mexico and encouraging county clerks to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. The resolution will be introduced at the next Santa Fe City Council meeting, scheduled for Wednesday, March 27.

Support for same-sex marriage among Americans has jumped significantly in the past year to an all-time high of 58 percent, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.

“Santa Fe is a city of respect, acceptance, and diversity that embraces all of our residents,” said Mayor David Coss. “I sponsored this resolution because all loving, committed couples should have the right to marry regardless of their sexual orientation.”

“It is disheartening to me -- to be creating laws for my community for 19 years and not be treated equally in the eyes of New Mexico law,” said Councilor Bushee. "We are the last group allowed to be legally discriminated against. This is a civil rights issue--it's time for Santa Fe to lead the way."

“Marriage law in New Mexico is gender-neutral and does not define marriage as between a man and a woman,” said Geno Zamora, City Attorney. “New Mexico already recognizes valid marriages performed in other states between same-sex couples; it would violate our state’s constitution to deny equal rights in our own families.”

In a written opinion, dated March 19, 2013, City Attorney Geno Zamora discusses the fact that New Mexico’s statutory definition of marriage is gender-neutral and does not define marriage as between a man and a woman. Nor does New Mexico law prohibit same-sex marriage. Therefore, same-sex couples are capable of contracting within the law and capable of marrying in the State of New Mexico.

(Click to view the Resoution introduced by Coss and Bushee; and the City Attorney's Memorandum)

(A petition to support same-sex marriage as legal in New Mexico has been established on

City Attorney Zamora’s memo references nine states and the District of Columbia, which all issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples: Connecticut, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Vermont, Washington, and the District of Columbia. Another group of states constitutionally or statutorily defines marriage as between a man and a woman. New Mexico law does not speak directly to same-sex marriage.

A March 21 update:

Message from City Councilor Patti Bushee:

“I would personally like to express my support to all of you in a committed same-sex relationship who endure the pain of discrimination everyday—knowing that our government refuses to recognize your partnership as equal, in the eyes of the law,” said Councilor Patti J. Bushee. “It is time to fight for our rights, under the laws of this great nation which stands for liberty and justice for all.”

If you are planning to go to a county clerk's office to apply for a marriage license; or, if you go to a county clerk's office and are denied a marriage license, please coordinate your efforts by contacting:

ACLU of New Mexico
Amanda Johnson
PO Box 566
Albuquerque, NM 87103
Phone: 505-266-5915 ext. 1013

Equality New Mexico
1410 Coal Ave., SW
Albuquerque, NM 87104
Phone: 505-224-2766

Some Other States' Recognition of Gay Marriage and Related Family Law Rights

 In addition to New York, the following jurisdictions currently allow gay and lesbian couples to marry on the same basis as other couples:

 - Massachusetts became the first state to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples in 2004 after the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts held that it was unconstitutional to only allow heterosexual couples to marry.

 - Connecticut authorized marriages between same-sex couples after a challenge to its civil unions law was upheld by the Supreme Court of Connecticut in 2008 based on equal protection rights.

 - Iowa recognized gay marriage after the Iowa Supreme Court upheld a district court decision, holding that no important governmental interest was served by denying marriage licenses based on citizens' sexual orientation.

 - Vermont, which had been the first state to recognize civil unions in 2000, provided full marital rights to gays and lesbians in 2009 when the state legislature overrode the governor's veto of the same-sex marriage bill they had passed earlier that year.

 - New Hampshire legalized gay marriage in 2010 when legislators approved a bill that built upon the civil-unions law that was enacted in 2007.

 - Washington, D.C., began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples in 2010, nearly 20 years after the city had first recognized registered domestic partnerships.