NM state law doesn’t prohibit recognition of same-sex marriages

January 8, 2011 • Local News

Attorney General Gary King’s office released a statement on Tuesday detailing the official attorney general’s opinion that New Mexico state law does not prohibit the recognition of same-sex marriages. The opinion was in response to a question from State Sen. Al Park, which asked if same-sex marriages performed in other jurisdictions, states, were valid in New Mexico.

The release reads “in response to the question the opinion states: ‘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.’”

Local leaders like State Rep. Dennis Kintigh have a different philosophical take on the opinion.

“This is one of the reasons why [auth] there was talk about the need for some action at the national level,” Kintigh said. “This demonstrates the need to have some type of consistent ruling for states … I think we need to take a hard look at.”

Given the political climate and tradition of the Roswell community, such a decision may step on the toes of the gatekeepers of the community.

“This is one of the social issues that is of tremendous concern to many of us,” Kintigh said. “I’m afraid we’re getting backdoored on something that is not being debated fully in the open with public involvement. And that’s got me very concerned. We need to have a better understanding of what the attorney general is basing his decision on, and we need to act appropriately.”

Evan Wolfson, president of Freedom to Marry and author of Why Marriage Matters: America, Equality and Gay People’s Right to Marry, is at the forefront of the gay marriage movement for the freedom and equality of same-sex couples. Wolfson calls King’s opinion “common sense” because it “honors marriages, rather than destabilize them.”

“The normal rule in states throughout American history has been that a state will honor the marriage of a couple that comes through the state, or that lives in the state or does business in the state,” Wolfson said.

According to Phil Sisneros, communications director at Attorney General Gary King’s office, the opinion is not a policy, but an opinion.

“I don’t think it suggests anything,” he said. “The law is the law–essentially. The way attorney general’s office works in an opinion is just a research of state law as it applies to what the question is.”

That question, which is fundamentally attached to American tradition, is whether or not New Mexico should recognize a same-sex couple’s legal marriage and guarantee them all the same rights and privileges as heterosexual couples.

For some, like State Rep. William Sharer, who’s at the forefront of a piece of legislation called the Defense of Marriage Act, the answer is no. In the coming months, the gay marriage debate in New Mexico will be a hot topic in coffee shops, churches and between politicians with great potential to encourage social polarization.

“If the legislators really care about the importance of marriage and respecting families in New Mexico, why would they want to destabilize those families and carve up an exception into the law?” Wolfson said. “Why isn’t it better to apply the same standards of protection and respect to committed couples.”

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