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New Mexico woman asks state court for emergency marriage license

Marriage equality Marriage Equality Trials

New Mexico state sealMarriage equality efforts have been moving apace in New Mexico, and it looks like things might get interesting thanks to a urgent request filed yesterday by several LGBT legal organizations seeking a marriage license for a woman suffering from brain cancer.  From a press release issued by the National Center for Lesbian Rights:

Today, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of New Mexico, the national ACLU, and the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) filed an emergency request with New Mexico’s Second Judicial District Court to allow a Pojoaque same-sex couple, Jen Roper and Angelique Neuman, to legally marry immediately because Jen suffers from a severe medical condition that may prove fatal in the near future.  Jen suffers from a life-threatening form of brain cancer, and her health has deteriorated severely in the past few months. Today’s request seeks an emergency order from the court that would allow the couple to marry so that Angelique and their three children will be legally protected should Jen pass away.

As NCLR’s release argues, Roper’s illness prevents the women from traveling out of New Mexico to a marriage equality state.  “The only way they can hope to protect their family in this time of crisis and realize their dream of being legally married,” the organization wrote, “is for the New Mexico courts to grant emergency relief that would allow the County of Santa Fe to issue them a marriage license now, while the case proceeds.”

Yesterday, we reported on two marriage equality developments out of New Mexico.  In the first, a same-sex couple which had sued for the right to obtain a marriage licenses asked the state Supreme Court to consolidate their case with other equal marriage challenges in the state.  Litigation in Santa Fe and Albuquerque is currently proceeding through the lower courts, after the state supreme court declined to resolve the issue earlier this month, leaving it to the lower courts but noting that the case could take an expedited track to a final decision.  The couple’s request would bring all the cases before a district court judge in Santa Fe, who could issue a decision that could be appealed straight to the state high court.

In the second piece of news, Lynn Ellins, the clerk of Doña Ana county in New Mexico, announced that his office would begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.  Also yesterday, New Mexico Attorney General Gary King said he would not challenge Ellins’s actions in court, nor would he move to block any other county clerk from issuing marriage licenses.

New Mexico has no law explicitly banning nor allowing equal marriage rights for same-sex couples.  It’s unclear whether other county or state officials might sue to stop Ellins from issuing licenses.  With marriage equality proceeding on several fronts in New Mexico, it appears likely that the issue will move quickly through the courts and will end up with a final determination at the state Supreme Court.


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