SANTA FE, NM - Lambda Legal and Just New Mexico are praising an opinion letter issued by New Mexico Attorney General Gary King finding that marriages between people of the same sex performed in states or countries where they are legal likely are valid in New Mexico as well.
At the urging of Just New Mexico, State Representative Al Park (D-Albuquerque) sent King a formal inquiry on the validity of those specific out-of-state marriages. "This is good step in the right direction and a happy day for all New Mexicans," said Jennifer Burns of Just New Mexico. "It's recognition that our state values families, including same-sex couples who have married elsewhere. Married same-sex couples can't go through life with a lawyer constantly in tow to answer the hundreds of questions about issues including hospital visitation, inheritance and parenting; we need the same assurances that any other married couple takes for granted."
Lambda Legal provided technical support and legal background materials to Just New Mexico's volunteer attorney Jennifer Albright, which were forwarded to the attorney general's office as it was drafting the letter. "We're not surprised but obviously very pleased the attorney general has reached the position he did," said Kenneth Upton, Supervising Senior Staff Attorney in Lambda Legal's Dallas-based South Central Regional Office. "This really is the only logical conclusion - after all, New Mexico has long abided by the comity principle that states generally must recognize marriages validly entered into in other states. Before the so-called federal Defense of Marriage Act carved out a cruel, anti-gay exception, there was never any doubt that a marriage performed legally in one state would be recognized in another. There's just no reason New Mexico should lower the 'no crossing' gate when a married same-sex couple passes the state line. This is welcome progress, but it's not the end of the story. Same-sex couples still cannot marry in New Mexico and it's unfair that loving couples do not have the same rights at home as they do in some other states."
King's opinion notes that New Mexico law does not specifically bar marriages by lesbian and gay couples, and has in fact recognized other out-of-state marriages that would not have been allowed within the state: "While we cannot predict how a New Mexico court would rule on this issue, after review of the law in this area, it is our opinion that a same-sex marriage that is valid under the laws of the country or state where it was consummated would likewise be found valid in New Mexico."
King's opinion letter is not legally binding.