The Attorney General in New Mexico recently issued a very well-written Opinion, stating that same-sex marriages from other states should be recognized in New Mexico. If the state government agencies and local courts adopt this opinion, couples that married in other states (such as Massachusetts or Iowa) who live in New Mexico will be treated as married for all state-law purposes. This would include state tax benefits, public and private benefits, and public assistance programs. It should also make it easier for same-sex couples to legally co-parent their children. Most importantly to us, it would also extend the right to divorce to same-sex spouses.
For some partners this would be welcome news--they could file a dissolution action that included a demand for alimony (spousal support), as well a claim for a portion of financial and property assets titled in their partner's name -- just as every other married spouse can do. Not surprisingly, this news would not be well received by many other partners. Some would be upset because they would have to go through the court dissolution process, and others would be angry that they had to pay alimony or share a portion of their assets with their ex. The good news for both partners, however, is that they wouldn't have to travel to another state to dissolve their relationship, nor would there be so much uncertainty as to the validity and recognition of their marriage.
A similar ruling was issued recently by the Attorney General of Maryland, and it will take some time for us to see whether the other government agencies and the courts will adopt these rulings. But it's a move in the right direction to have the Attorney General assert that there are no state public policies in New Mexico that would mandate a disregard of a valid same-sex marriage entered into by a couple lawfully in another state.
Assuming the courts do the right thing in these states, same-sex couples in 15 states now can be confident that their marriages will be recognized, for better or for worse!
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