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Trust N.M. to do right thing on gay marriage

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Government shouldn’t be in the business of discriminating. New Mexicans understand that, and having served as New Mexico’s governor for eight years, I know firsthand that fairness and equality under the law are principles we embrace without apology.

In last year’s election, voters in four states – Maryland, Maine, Minnesota and Washington – voted to embrace the freedom to marry. That was huge. After decades of states codifying discrimination against committed gay couples with constitutional amendments and statutes specifically banning same-sex marriage, voters in these four states began turning the tide.

And it is a turning tide.

Polls across the country show that a tectonic, and welcome, shift is occurring on the question of marriage for committed gay and lesbian couples. America is ready to get out of the marriage discrimination business, and let our gay neighbors, friends and family live their lives without being singled out for unfair treatment.

America is rapidly coming around to the idea that freedom means freedom for everyone.

New Mexico is in a unique place when it comes to same-sex marriage. Unlike any other state, we have no law either banning or allowing it. We recognize marriages performed legally in other states, whether they be between gay or straight couples. And we honor the marriages of gay New Mexicans who travel elsewhere to be legally married, because no member of any family should face discrimination when they want to marry.

New Mexicans are well aware of my strong preference for small and limited government. It is no accident that some still call me Governor Veto.

But even as an advocate of limited government, I would suggest that protecting rights and ensuring equality are two things government absolutely must do. That’s what government is for, as opposed to much of what it otherwise does.

Because of the uncertainty our legal silence leaves, we now have some counties granting marriage licenses to gay couples – and others not. Legal challenges are lining up on all sides, and all of our county clerks have joined to ask the state Supreme Court to answer the question: Is same-sex marriage legal in New Mexico or not?

In short, the status of gay marriage in New Mexico is unclear – and it needn’t be.

When we have basic legal questions that face our state, we turn to our Supreme Court to read the New Mexico Constitution and provide answers to the question at hand.

It is important that the New Mexico Supreme Court answer the question that has been put before them. I believe they will make it clear that ours is not a state that discriminates by granting the freedom to marry to some, but not to others.

I am confident that we New Mexicans will come down on the side of fairness, because in New Mexico we treat others the way we would want to be treated.

Gary Johnson served two terms as governor of New Mexico and was a candidate for U.S. president in 2012. He is currently the honorary chairman of the Our America Initiative.

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