A New Mexico judge on Monday declared same-sex marriage legal, ordering the clerk of the state's most populous county to join two other counties in issuing licenses for gay and lesbian couples.
State District Judge Alan Malott ruled that New Mexico's constitution prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.
The Bernalillo County clerk's office in Albuquerque planned to start issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples today.
The decision came after a judge in Santa Fe directed the county clerk there to begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples on Friday. The clerk in Dona Ana County began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples Wednesday.
Malott's ruling was seen as more sweeping because he directly declared that same-sex marriage was legal. Laura Schauer Ives, a lawyer for the American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico, called it "monumental" and said the group didn't expect such a broad decision by Malott. The judge had been asked only to order that the state recognize, on her death certificate, a dying woman's marriage in Santa Fe to her longtime partner. Jen Roper, who has cancer, and Angelique Neuman were married Friday.
It's uncertain whether clerks in the state's 30 other counties, who were not defendants in the lawsuit, will use the judge's ruling as a signal that they can issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Assistant Attorney General Scott Fuqua said the decision wasn't binding statewide.