Significant developments on same-sex marriage

The retail giant Walmart has decided to extend its benefits to the same-sex domestic partners of its LGBT employees. Granted, Walmart is a terrible employer that exploits its workers and pays them poor wages but this move is symbolically important because the socially conservative Arkansas-based company is so huge and because it has stated that its policy will take effect in all 50 states, irrespective of whether that state recognizes same-sex marriage or not. It is a major step forward.

Meanwhile there is an interesting development in New Mexico. That state’s marriage laws do not explicitly include same-sex couples but do not forbid them either, stating simply that “Marriage is contemplated by the law as a civil contract, for which the consent of the contracting parties, capable in law of contracting, is essential.”

On the other hand, the marriage license form lists space for one male applicant and one female applicant. This has led to some confusion with some county clerks issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples and others denying them.

This has resulted in those clerks who declined to do so being sued and now two state court judges have ordered the clerks to issue marriage licenses and over a hundred have already been given out. The issue is very likely to end up in the state Supreme Court and it seems likely that, in the wake of the US Supreme Court rulings last year, they will uphold the lower court rulings, especially since the fact that so many couples have already got married creates a fait accompli.


  1. invivoMark says

    I’ve got a friend in New Mexico, who has been posting regular updates on Facebook. Last I heard, they are up to five counties issuing same-sex marriage licenses.

    The way my friend put it: “The status of same-sex marriage legality in any other state is represented in at least one county somewhere in New Mexico.”

  2. Scr... Archivist says

    Thanks for this update, Professor. I’ve noticed that New Mexico is always gray in maps of which states protect marriage equality and which prohibit it. But I never heard of any attempts to take advantage of the law’s lack of specificity, so it’s good to see things get specific.

  3. Kate says

    I believe it is up to six counties as of today. Also, from my understanding, this was all started by the state attorney general filing a brief with the state Supreme Court that indicated that banning same sex marriage in the state would go against various state anti-discrimination laws. This led the county clerk at Dona Ana County to start issuing licenses for same-sex marriage last week, and has snowballed from there.

    The judge’s ruling mentioned above is apparently much more sweeping than expected; he could have simply ruled that the couple at the center of the case (one of whom is dying of cancer and wants to marry her partner prior to dying) could be issued a single license.

    In any case, it seems to be picking up steam.

  4. Doug Little says

    I can’t wait for the clarion call from the religious right to boycott Walmart. Oh wait, that would mean that most of them would either starve to death or die from exposure.

  5. kevinalexander says

    Oh wait, that would mean that most of them would either starve to death or die from exposure.

    No, it just means that they would be forced to shop at commie stores that respect the workers.

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