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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, September 6 2013 - Volume 41 Issue 36
NM Supreme Court to hear same-sex marriage case
Section One
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NM Supreme Court to hear same-sex marriage case

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

New Mexico's Supreme Court announced on September 6 that it would decide whether same-sex marriages are legal in the state. The court's decision to weigh in on the topic came at the request of all 33 of the state's counties.

The court set October 23 as the date for a hearing on the issue. All five of the court's justices concurred in ordering a review of several same-sex marriage cases, but the ruling was issued without written comments.

In August, a district judge in Santa Fe ruled that New Mexico's constitution does not bar same-sex marriage, and ordered the county clerk there either to issue marriage licenses to Gay and Lesbian couples or to show cause why she should not.

Days later, a district judge in Bernalillo County, which includes Albuquerque, the state's largest city, ruled that denying same-sex couples the right to marry violates state constitutional provisions guaranteeing equal protection under the law and barring gender-based discrimination.

Separately, several Republican lawmakers filed a lawsuit challenging a Doña Ana County clerk who began handing out marriage licenses to same-sex couples last month.

The 33 county clerks, meanwhile, joined by the New Mexico Association of Counties, petitioned the high court to decide whether the district court judges' rulings should extend statewide.

EIGHT ISN'T ENOUGH
As of September 3, eight New Mexico counties have begun issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, some on their own and some under court order, according to Chris Stoll, senior staff attorney for the National Center for Lesbian Rights.

At least 1,000 Gay and Lesbian couples have applied for marriage licenses across New Mexico in recent weeks, said Micah McCoy, a spokesman for the state chapter of the ACLU, which, together with the National Center for Lesbian Rights, represents the plaintiffs in the case in Bernalillo and Santa Fe counties.

He told Reuters that 250 applications from same-sex couples had been made in Doña Ana County alone.

PRAISE FROM BOTH SIDES
Both pro- and anti-equality forces welcomed the Supreme Court's decision.

'I think it's excellent,' said state Representative Anna Crook, a Republican who is one of 29 state lawmakers who have joined the lawsuit in Doña 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.'

Stoll said, 'We have couples that have received marriage licenses and have gotten married, and they deserve the certainty of knowing their marriage is secure and will be respected by the state.'

A statement from the ACLU, representing couples in the Bernalillo County case, expressed hope that the Supreme Court hearing 'will lead to a speedy decision establishing the freedom to marry for all same-sex couples in New Mexico.'

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