"We hold that the State of New Mexico is constitutionally required to allow same-gender couples to marry," a ruling delivered by New Mexico's Supreme Court says.
With the decision, New Mexico becomes the 17 American state to legalize gay marriage.
"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," the decision states.
The court also dismissed the contention of gay marriage opponents that "defining marriage to prohibit same-gender marriages is related to the important, overriding governmental interests of 'responsible procreation and childrearing' and preventing the deinstitutionalization of marriage."
The court noted that "the aged, the infertile, and those who choose not to have children are not precluded from marrying." It also pointed out that New Mexico law recognizes gay couples' right to raise children.
Referring to the US Supreme Court's ruling in Loving v Virginia, which struck down laws prohibiting interracial marriage, the New Mexico court observed that it is "inappropriate to define the governmental interest as maintaining only opposite-gender marriages, just as it was inappropriate to define the governmental interest as maintaining same-race marriages in Loving."
Human Rights Campaign president Chad Griffin hailed the decision. “The court is entirely correct that denying lesbian and gay couples the same rights as everyone else is fundamentally unjust,” he says. “Regardless of where you live, all people should have the ability to marry the person they love, and now the legislature must not do anything to turn back the clock in the Land of Enchantment.”