Jen Roper, who is suffering from a fatal form of brain cancer, is suing the state of New Mexico for the right to marry her partner of 21 years.
In 2012, Roper, 44, was diagnosed with stage-IV glioblastoma and given 18 months to live. Her health has deteriorated rapidly in the last few months, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) said in a statement. She is so sick, she is unable to travel out of the state to marry elsewhere.
If she dies without marrying her partner, 45-year-old Angelique Neuman, Neuman and her three children will be denied the legal protection afforded to married couples.
“I want to know that my family will be protected if I pass away,” Roper said in a press release. “Angelique and I have been married in our hearts for 21 years and raised three wonderful children together. Because of my illness, we do not have the luxury of waiting years for the courts to decide whether loving, committed same-sex couples can marry in New Mexico. For us, the time is now.”
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As Raw Story points out, the state’s definition of marriage is already gender neutral. It says marriage is “a civil contract, for which the consent of the contracting parties, capable in law of contracting, is essential.”
State law only prohibits marriage “based on age and degree of familial relationship between the contracting parties.”
Together for more than two decades, the couple feels that during that time together they were living as a married couple.
"Even when I was a little kid, I always dreamed of growing up and getting married," Neuman said. "I knew Jen was the one almost as soon as we met, and I don't want to lose the opportunity to marry her. It is very important to us that our relationship is recognized as what it is: a marriage."
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An emergency request was filed in New Mexico’s Second Judicial District Court on behalf of Roper and Neuman by coalition of groups.
“It has become tragically clear that Jen may not survive the couple’s 20-year wait for New Mexico to acknowledge and honor their commitment,” the couple’s emergency request stated. “New Mexico’s failure to recognize and protect their family has immediate and serious consequence for this couple. Before Jen dies or before her medical condition renders her unable to contract, Jen and Angelique want to get married and seek court order instructing the Santa Fe County clerk to stop denying the couple a license and the State of New Mexico to stop depriving the couple and their family the rights and benefits to which they are constitutionally entitled.”