Posted by AzBlueMeanie:
The New Mexico Supreme Court agreed Friday to decide once and for all
whether same-sex marriage should be legal statewide after several
counties recently began issuing marriage licenses to gay and lesbian
couples, prompting a legal challenge. NM high court to hear gay marriage case next month:
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.
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.
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 now 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.
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.
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."
[Gay marriage advocates argue the state constitution’s equal protection
clause trumps state law that requires “male” and “female” to be listed
on marriage application forms and allows for same-sex marriage.]
[District Judge Alan Malott] 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."
Separately, several Republican lawmakers filed a lawsuit challenging a
Dona Ana County clerk who began voluntarily handing out marriage
licenses to same-sex couples last month. Several counties have done
likewise since then, some on their own and some under court order. New Mexico Supreme Court to hear same-sex marriage case:
"I think it's excellent," said state Rep. Anna Crook, a Republican
from the town of Clovis, one of 29 lawmakers who have so far joined the
lawsuit in Dona Ana County. "It's been absolute chaos. We need to have a
ruling one way or the other instead of 'my county can, yours can't.'"
statement from the American Civil Liberties Union, representing couples
in the Bernalillo County case, said gay rights proponents hope Friday's
move "will lead to a speedy decision establishing the freedom to marry
for all same-sex couples in New Mexico."
If same-sex marriage
supporters prevail, New Mexico would join 13 other states and the
District of Columbia in legalizing same-sex matrimony.
Seven New Mexico counties – Bernalillo, Santa Fe, Doña Ana,
Valencia, Taos, San Miguel and Los Alamos – have begun issuing marriage
licenses in the past three weeks, either voluntarily or in response to
lower court orders.
An eighth county clerk, Grant County Clerk Robert Zamarripa,
has said he will start issuing marriage licenses to gay and lesbian
couples on Monday.