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New Mexico

N.M. Supreme Court to hear same-sex marriage case next month

Friday, September 6, 2013

SANTA FE, N.M. — New Mexico’s highest court signaled Friday it may quickly resolve whether gay marriage is legal in the state.

The five-member state Supreme Court issued an order setting an Oct. 23 hearing in a case that finally could decide whether marriage licenses can be issued to gay and lesbian couples.

The court took the step a day after New Mexico’s 33 counties and county clerks statewide filed a petition asking justices to determine whether a state district judge in Albuquerque was correct last week in declaring it’s unconstitutional to deny marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

More than 900 marriage licenses have been issued in New Mexico since Aug. 21, when the Dona Ana County clerk decided independently that gay marriage was allowed. Seven other counties have followed in granting licenses to same-sex couples or planning to do so, several in response to court orders.

“This is excellent news because county clerks will n ow know what the law is, and they’ll know how to not just administer their offices but how to serve their constituents,” said Daniel Ivey-Soto, a lawyer for clerks and a Democratic state senator from Albuquerque.

The quick hearing “indicates the Supreme Court is interested in clarifying the law,” he said.

The high court could issue a decision immediately after hearing arguments from lawyers in the case or it could take longer to make a ruling.

The justices asked parties in the case to submit written arguments by Sept. 23.

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Unlike a district court ruling, a decision by the state Supreme Court will establish a statewide legal precedent.

New Mexico law doesn’t explicitly authorize or prohibit gay marriage. However, current and previous state attorney generals have said the law in effect bans same-sex marriage because state statutes contain a marriage license application with sections for male and female applications and other references to “husband” and “wife.”

A proposal to change the state constitution to legalize gay marriage failed in the Democratic-controlled Legislature this year.

Lawmakers also have rejected proposals in the past to ban gay marriage and to allow domestic partnerships for same-sex couples.

The judge in Albuquerque ruled that denying marriage licenses to gay and lesbian couples violated a 1972 voter-approved equal rights constitutional amendment that prohibits discrimination “on account of the sex of any person.”

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9 more reader comments:

  1. Lets see what happens

    Posted on Friday, September 6, 2013 at 10:25pm
  2. Good – let’s get this matter settled once and for all.

    Posted on Friday, September 6, 2013 at 10:30pm
  3. nope. It's not over until we have full, Civil Rights, no matter what they decide.

    Replied on Friday, September 6, 2013 at 10:45pm
  4. i dare this go to the us supreme court

    Posted on Friday, September 6, 2013 at 10:35pm
  5. I hope it goes through… My soon to be husband is from new Mexico…

    Posted on Saturday, September 7, 2013 at 1:02am
  6. Take that, Arizona!

    Posted on Saturday, September 7, 2013 at 2:32am
  7. if the new mexico supreme court ruled against us then bring it to federal court!

    Posted on Saturday, September 7, 2013 at 5:53am
  8. This is what I’ve been waiting for! When the NM Supreme Court rules in our favor. Then I will rejoice! Until then I have guarded optimism!!!

    Posted on Sunday, September 8, 2013 at 1:11am
  9. This what gets me,if a few states deem Same sex marriage bans unconstitutional,why not every state?there’s. 50States in these UNITED states,so it’s unconstitutional for a few,but not for all?

    Posted on Sunday, September 8, 2013 at 1:50am