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ACLU ‘stunned’ as N.M. judge rules gay marriage legal, despite law

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New Mexico doesn't have a specific constitutional provision or law that allows same-sex marriages, but a judge said on Monday that prohibiting the unions is a form of sexual discrimination — and by proxy, ruled gay marriage legal.

The American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico called the judge's actions "monumental" and unexpected, The Associated Press reported.

ACLU attorney Laura Schauer Ives said she was shocked by the broad interpretation of law handed down by State District Judge Alan Malott, seen as a far-reaching thumbs-up to gay marriage in a state that doesn't have a law allowing the unions, AP reported.

The case started with a dying woman's request that the state recognize on her death certificate her long-time lesbian partnership with another woman. A short hearing ensued, and nobody objected to the request, AP reported.

And so Mr. Malott ruled in the woman's favor — but then he also went above and beyond and ruled on the larger issue that couple and five other gay couples wanted legally addressed: Can the state prevent them from obtaining marriage licenses?

The judge said no. Doing so violates state laws against sexual discrimination, he ruled, AP reported.

"We were stunned and amazed," Ms. Ives said, about the judge's ruling, largely seen as a judicial stamp of approval for gay marriages to go forth in New Mexico.

Bernalillo County, on the heels of the order, reported it would start issuing gay marriage licenses on Tuesday, AP reported.

But some legal minds are cautioning against running statewide with that ruling. Assistant Attorney General Scott Fuqua warned that the judge's decision wasn't applicable to all 30 counties in New Mexico, but rather only on the two counties involved with that particular case: Santa Fe and Bernalillo, AP reported.

Still, it's not yet clear how clerks in those 30 counties might weigh the judge's decision against the assistant attorney general's caveat.

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