The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of New Mexico has announced it's filing of a lawsuit in District Court against Bernallio County Clerk, Maggie Toulouse Oliver, after two lesbian couples were turned away when they applied for a marriage license on March 21, 2013. The suit was officially filed Thursday afternoon, just days after Santa Fe Mayor David Coss made national news by sponsoring a city resolution in favor of gay marriage in New Mexico's state capitol of Santa Fe, noting the vague language of the state's statues involving marriage which neither prohibit or sanction same sex unions.
In an interview with KUNM, Maggie Touluse Oliver told reporters, Rita Daniels and Tristan Ahtone, that she personally supports gay marriage, but feels she would be violating her oath of office to approve marriage licenses for same-sex couples due to a "Technicality," in the law which she says, "Does need to be resolved."
According to the ACLU, New Mexico is the only state in the nation that does not clearly prohibit or or officially recognize the rights of same sex couples to marry. The ACLU has filed its lawsuit on behalf of Rose Griego and Kim Kiel, of Santa Fe and Miriam Rand and Ona Porter, of Albuquerque. Rose and Kim have been together for 8 years, Miriam and Ona for 25. The organization holds the position that refusal to acknowledge the rights of these women to marry is a violation of state anti-discrimination laws.
The legal complaint was filed by the ACLU in collaboration with The National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) and Albuquerque law firm Sutin, Thayer & Browne, along with other local attorneys. It identifies marriage as the, "Sole legal institution in New Mexico through which couples can create a family unit that the state recognizes and protects." The complaint goes into detail about the many hardships faced by committed same sex couples regarding health care decisions, property ownership, death benefits and inheritance, as well as the social injuries incurred due to the implicit attitude that, without recognition through the institution of marriage, same sex partnerships are regarded as having less value in our culture.
New Mexico only decriminalized consensual sexual relations between same sex couples as recently as the 1970s. In 2003 the state adopted anti-discrimination laws protecting gays from abuses after a decade long battle with numerous bills being rejected by the legislature, and New Mexico still does not have any legislation recognizing domestic partnerships or other forms of legal union for same sex couples seeking to have their relationship officially acknowledged through a civil process.
There are still numerous obstacles to overcome, and this case is expected to ultimately be heard in the state's supreme court, but New Mexico is clearly in a position to play a pivotal role as the question of gay marriage takes on increasing national and global importance.