New Mexico's highest court has legalized same-sex marriage, declaring it is unconstitutional to deny a marriage license to gay and lesbian couples.
The state Supreme Court issued its ruling Thursday. New Mexico joins 16 states and the District of Columbia in allowing gay marriage.
Eight of the state's 33 counties have started issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples since August, when a county clerk in southern New Mexico independently decided to allow the unions.
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County officials asked the high court to clarify the law and establish a uniform state policy on gay marriage.
State statutes don't explicitly prohibit or authorize gay marriage. However, county clerks historically have denied marriage licenses to same-sex couples because the law includes a marriage license application with sections for male and female applicants.