On the side supporting same-sex marriage, the American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico, the national ACLU, the National Center for Lesbian Rights, the law firm of Sutin, Thayer & Browne APC, and other New Mexico attorneys announced they would file a brief with the state’s high court.
“Every New Mexico court that has considered our claims has agreed that it is unconstitutional to deny marriage to loving, committed same-sex couples,” said ACLU-NM Legal Director Laura Schauer Ives. “We are hopeful that the New Mexico Supreme Court will agree that same-sex couples in our communities deserve full respect and recognition of their relationships, and issue a writ to resolve all claims on constitutional grounds.”
ACLU-NM and NCLR were among the groups to get the ball rolling on a legal challenge to clerks not giving marriage licenses to same-sex couples earlier this year. The groups sued on behalf of two couples, which later expanded to more same-sex couples, after they were not allowed to get marriage certificates at the Bernalillo County Clerk’s office.
Meanwhile, Republican legislators are seeking to stop same-sex marriages from happening in the state. Eight counties are currently offering marriage licenses to same-sex couples, four of which are doing so after court orders.
From the Associated Press:
The Republican lawmakers, represented by a conservative Christian law group called the Alliance Defending Freedom, said anti-discrimination and equal protection guarantees in the state constitution do not provide a legal right to marriage for same-sex couples.
The lawmakers said that “the judiciary should exercise caution when asked to divine fundamental and important constitutional rights not expressly provided in the Constitution’s text.”
The Supreme Court will read the briefs on both sides (others such as a group of UNM law professors have filed briefs) and then hold a hearing on October 23.
After that, the Supreme Court will rule on whether or not New Mexico becomes the 14th state to have legalized same-sex marriage (or 15th, depending on the timing of Hawaii’s expected legalization).
New Mexico is in an interesting position, as its state law does not explicitly allow or forbid same-sex marriages. This ambiguity, and other laws that outlaw discrimination based on race or sexual orientation, has led to New Mexico’s unique same-sex marriage movement.