A New Mexico judge ruled on Monday that same-sex marriage is legal in the state's most populous county.
District Judge Alan Malott, who oversaw the case, stated:
Gay and lesbian citizens of New Mexico have endured a long history of discrimination. Denial of the right to marry continues this unfortunate, intolerable pattern and establishes irreparable injury on plaintiffs' part.
His ruling affects Bernalillo County, home to 673,000 residents. The county clerk of courts began issuing marriage licenses this morning.
Laura Schauer Ives, an American Civil Liberties (ACLU) lawyer on the case, expected a much narrower ruling and described Malott's broad declaration as “monumental.” Reuters notes that the unexpected decision opens up new questions about how the state will proceed:
The group was not sure how the ruling would affect the state's other 30 counties which are not issuing same-sex marriage licenses, said Micah McCoy, spokesman for the ACLU of New Mexico.
"It's a pretty unconventional route for this kind of case to take, but it will be very useful in arguing the case in other counties where people want to get married," McCoy said.
Not all approve of Malott's ruling, though. Bill Sharer, a state senator and a Republican, said:
It is inexplicable how a district court just today discovered a new definition of marriage in our laws, when our marriage law has not been changed in over a century.
This is not the first time a New Mexico court has made a pro-gay marriage decision in recent history. Two other counties already approved issuing marriage licenses regardless of gender. Reuters also highlights the fact that "last week, a judge in Santa Fe County ordered the county clerk there to issue same-sex marriage licenses and a clerk in the southern part of the state decided to hand out such licenses independently of any court ruling.
Al Jazeera explains that “New Mexico has never passed legislation banning or allowing same-sex marriage,” which is why “Malott's ruling was seen as having more impact, as he explicitly declared that gay marriage was legal.”