Rich-Vaughn-Blog-NewMexico-Marriage-Equality

New Mexico Court Rules for Marriage Equality

Just in time for Christmas, the New Mexico Supreme Court ruled December 19 that prohibiting same-sex couples from marrying is a violation of the anti-discrimination clause in the state’s Constitution, making New Mexico the 17th U.S. state to legalize same-sex marriage, as well as the District of Columbia.

In an opinion joined by four other justices for a unanimous vote, Justice Edward L. Chávez wrote: “We conclude that the purpose of New Mexico marriage laws is to bring stability and order to the legal relationship of committed couples by defining their rights and responsibilities as to one another, their children if they choose to raise children together, and their property. Prohibiting same-gender marriages is not substantially related to the governmental interests advanced by the parties opposing same-gender marriage or to the purposes we have identified. Therefore, barring individuals from marrying and depriving them of the rights, protections, and responsibilities of civil marriage solely because of their sexual orientation violates the Equal Protection Clause under Article II, Section 18 of the New Mexico Constitution.

“We hold that the State of New Mexico is constitutionally required to allow same-gender couples to marry and must extend to them the rights, protections, and responsibilities that derive from civil marriage under New Mexico law.”

New Mexico has been an interesting case to watch because it was the only state in the U.S. whose laws neither allowed nor prohibited same-sex marriage. When six couples filed suit to win the right to marry in March, several county clerks, beginning with Dona Ana County Clerk Lynn Elkins, began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Since then, some 900 couples New Mexico same-sex couples have married. The high court’s ruling was a response to the request of the New Mexico Association of Counties and the state’s 33 county clerks to clarify the state’s legal position. From the written opinion: “At the time this petition was filed, eight New Mexico counties were issuing marriage licenses to same-gender couples, while twenty-four were not. By October 23, 2013, the date of oral argument before this Court, over 1,466 marriage licenses had been issued.”

Opponents argued that even though New Mexico law did not specifically prohibit same-sex marriage, its statutes dictated that the marriage license form contain the gender-specific terms “husband” and “wife.” The Court agreed that the statutory restriction existed, then ruled that the requisite language was discriminatory under the state Constitution. As of this writing, it was unclear when all 33 New Mexico counties would begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

The opinion also addressed the contention by opponents of same-sex marriage that a primary purpose of marriage is procreation: “Even assuming arguendo that procreation is the overriding purpose of the New Mexico marriage laws, same-gender and opposite-gender couples are still similarly situated, yet they are treated differently. Opposite-gender couples who are incapable of naturally producing children, or who simply do not intend to have children, are not prohibited from marrying, and they still benefit from concomitant marital rights, protections, and responsibilities. In addition, just as opposite-gender couples may adopt or have children utilizing assisted reproduction, so too may same-gender couples. However, opposite-gender couples who adopt or have children utilizing assisted reproduction are not prohibited from marrying, and they and their families benefit from state-granted marital rights, protections, and responsibilities. Same-gender couples are prohibited from marrying, and they and their families are deprived of the rights, protections, and responsibilities available under our marriage laws, even if they choose to have a family by adoption or assisted reproduction.”

Further, the opinion addressed the harm caused to the offspring of same-sex couples by denying the legal recognition of marriage: “Excluding same-gender couples from civil marriage prevents children of same gender couples from enjoying the security that flows from the rights, protections, and responsibilities that accompany civil marriage. There is no substantial relationship between New Mexico’s marriage laws and the purported governmental interest of responsible childrearing. There is nothing rational about a law that penalizes children by depriving them of state and federal benefits because the government disapproves of their parents’ sexual orientation.”

Altogether, an eloquent defense of the principle of equality for all families, and one we hope will be a model for future court opinions.

For more information about the ruling, see the Albuquerque Journal or Bloomberg.com.

Rich Vaughn
Richard Vaughn
rich@iflg.net

Attorney Rich Vaughn is founder and principal of International Fertility Law Group, one of the world’s largest and best-known law firms focused exclusively on assisted reproductive technology, or ART, including in vitro fertilization (IVF), surrogacy, sperm donation or egg donation. Rich is co-author of the book “Developing A Successful Assisted Reproduction Technology Law Practice,” American Bar Association Publishing, 2017.

Peiya Wang
PEIYA WANG(王培娅)
Paralegal (律师助理)

Peiya Wang joined IFLG as a paralegal in 2015, where she manages surrogacy, egg donation and parental establishment cases and provides translation services for many of IFLG’s international clients. Peiya received her bachelor’s degree from Beijing Technologies and Business University, where she majored in Marketing. She moved to the United States in 2012 to attend Northeast University in Boston, Massachusetts, receiving a Master of Science degree in Global Studies and International Affairs in 2014. Peiya moved to Los Angeles in 2015 and received her paralegal certification from UCLA Extension. When away from the office, Peiya is a dragon boat paddler and a ballroom dancer, where she favors Rumbas and Cha-chas. She is fluent in Mandarin and English.

Luis Sosa
LUIS SOSA
Paralegal

Luis R. Sosa joined IFLG as a paralegal in 2016, where he enjoys pursuing his passion for family and reproductive law. While working toward his bachelor’s degree at Florida International University, Luis worked as a paralegal and legal assistant for family law litigation firms in Miami and Washington, D.C. As a paralegal and case manager for IFLG, Luis, who is bilingual in English and Spanish, manages surrogacy, egg donation and other reproductive law cases. In addition to spending time with husband Randy and dog Marty, Luis enjoys being outdoors and appreciating the arts.

Toni Hughes
TONI HUGES
Paralegal

After receiving her B.S. in Business Management, Toni joined IFLG to pursue her dream of working in the legal field. As a Paralegal with over 10 years of experience in the assisted reproduction technology field, Toni is our Managing Paralegal, responsible for training and managing our paralegal staff. From drafting legal documents to assisting our clients with post-birth matters, Toni embraces the challenge of learning something new in this field each day. Besides spending time with her son, Jordan, Toni enjoys exploring new things, cooking, spending time with family and friends, and serving as a Youth Advisor for “Next Generation.”

Miesha Cowart
MIESHA COWART
Financial Coordinator

Miesha Cowart joined IFLG as a financial specialist in 2014 following a successful career in development and business finance. Miesha previously worked for 10 years in the construction industry as a controller and for 13 years as Development Coordinator for the non-profit U.S. Fund for UNICEF. In her free time, Miesha works with “Next Generation” at her church. “They are my heartbeats!” she says of the youth in her community.

Kim
KIM DEVEREAUX
Paralegal

Kim has over 25 years of experience in the legal field and has worked exclusively in surrogacy and assisted reproduction law since 1999. Kim is a senior case manager of surrogacy and egg donation cases, and is also responsible for managing parental establishment cases and interacting with IFLG’s Of Counsel attorneys across the country. With three children of her own, Kim understands the importance of family and finds working in this area of law a rewarding experience.

Rich Vaughn
RICHARD B. VAUGHN
Founder

Attorney Rich Vaughn combined his personal passion as a father of twin boys born via assisted reproductive technology (ART) with more than 20 years of experience in business and technology law to build International Fertility Law Group. Today IFLG is one of the most successful and best-known law firms in the world focused exclusively on fertility law, helping thousands of intended parents through empathetic listening, compassionate guidance, and unmatched legal expertise. As an advocate for reproductive freedom, Rich also contributes his knowledge and time to improving the understanding and practice of ART law, most recently as a founder of and speaker at the first Cambridge University International Surrogacy Symposium held in June 2019, as immediate past chair of the American Bar Association ART Committee, and as a popular presenter to law schools, faculty and advocacy organizations all over the world.

Elizabeth Tamayo
ELIZABETH TAMAYO
Paralegal

Elizabeth received her Bachelors of Science degree in Criminal Justice from California State University of Los Angeles. Shortly after graduating, she continued her education at the University of California, Los Angeles where she obtained her Paralegal certificate. Elizabeth is fluent in Spanish and has been in the legal field since 2009. She is excited to be a part of the IFLG Team helping families realize their dreams.

Sunny Chien
SUNNY CHIEN
Paralegal

Sunny joined IFLG as a paralegal in 2017, where she manages surrogacy, egg donation and parental establishment cases for many of IFLG’s international clients. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Philosophy from California State University of Los Angeles, where she graduated cum laude. Sunny is bilingual in English and Mandarin and has extensive experience as a legal assistant and paralegal at Los Angeles-area law firms. She is excited to be part of the IFLG team. In her spare time, Sunny enjoys spending time with her family and their dog, going to the beach, cooking, and being outdoors.

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MOLLY O'BRIEN
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Fertility law attorney Molly O’Brien began working in the field of assisted reproduction technology (ART) in 2005, at an egg donation agency and a surrogacy agency where she became familiar with all aspects of in-vitro fertilization, egg donation and the financial aspects of surrogacy. Since becoming an attorney in 2011, Molly has drafted and negotiated surrogacy, egg donation, sperm donation embryo donation agreements for hundreds of her clients all over the world.