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New Mexico is joining the ranks of 16 other states and the District of Columbia by legalizing same-sex marriages. The ruling came down Thursday afternoon as the highest court in the state declared that denying marriage licenses to gay and lesbian couples  is unconstitutional.

“Accordingly, New Mexico may neither constitutionally deny same-gender couples the right to marry nor deprive them of the rights, protections and responsibilities of marriage laws, unless the proponents of the legislation — the opponents of same-gender marriage — prove that the discrimination caused by the legislation is ‘substantially related to an important government interest,’” wrote Justice Edward L. Chavez.

The ACLU-New Mexico chapter is calling the day a “historic” and “joyful” one.

In August, a county clerk in Southern New Mexico independently issued marriage licenses to same-gender couples and eight of the state’s 33 counties soon followed suit.

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