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Lesbian couples sue New Mexico for right to marry

Two lesbian couples sued in a New Mexico court Thursday demanding the right to marry, an action that could help clear up the state's murky law.

New Mexico and New Jersey are the only states that neither allow nor prohibit same-sex couples from getting married. New Mexico also doesn't recognize civil unions between same-sex couples.

The suit was filed in state district court in Albuquerque by attorneys for the American Civil Liberties Union and the National Center for Lesbian Rights acting on behalf of the two couples: Rose Griego, 43, and Kim Kiel, 44, of Santa Fe; and Miriam Rand, 63, and Ono Porter, 66, of Albuquerque. 

Both couples sought marriage licenses earlier in the day Thursday but were denied, and the suit was filed shortly thereafter. It argues (.pdf) that because neither the state Constitution nor the wedding statute explicitly ban same-sex weddings, the women should be issued valid marriage licenses.

"Ona and I have been together for over 25 years," Rand said in a statement distributed by Equality New Mexico, one of several civil rights organizations that are seeking the legalization of same-sex marriage in New Mexico. 

"Together, we raised children, we took care of our mothers when they were dying and are currently raising our granddaughter. We are family; we love and care for one another through good times and bad," she said. "We want our community to recognize our love and commitment for what it is: a marriage." 

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Griego likewise argued that "Kim (Kiel) and I have already made a lifelong commitment to one another, but marriage says 'family' in a way that no other word can. . It’s important to us that the state of New Mexico — our home, the place where we live, work and raised our family — recognizes and respects our relationship."

In a statement late Thursday, Brian Brown, president of the National Organization for Marriage, which opposes same-sex marriage, called the suit "transparently political" and "illegal."

"If gay marriage has always been legal then why have advocates been trying to pass same- sex marriage legislation?" Brown said.

In recent weeks, officials from across the state have sought clarification of New Mexico's wedding statute, many of them indicating that they would like to issue licenses to same-sex couples but were unsure of their legal footing.

Phil Sisneros, a spokesman for the state attorney general's office, told NBC News this week that the New Mexico's marriage statute was, indeed, "sufficiently vague" on the issue.


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