The state Supreme Court heard oral arguments on the case this morning in the heavily-anticipated same-sex marriage case. According to multiple reports, lawyers are expecting a quicker decision than normal when it comes to the case.
Of course, when the regular timing is counted in months, a decision from the state’s high court could still be weeks away even with a quick decision.
Before the hearing, Laura Schauer Ives, legal director for the state American Civil Liberties Union, said in a press conference with reporters she hoped for a decision by the end of the year.
The two sides had oral arguments of two hours on two different issues facing the state when it comes to same-sex marriage — but most expect it to ultimately come down to whether or not the state constitution allows same-sex marriage or not.
Those in support of the legalization of same-sex marriage in the state were confident after the hearing.
The Albuquerque Journal:
“I thought it went very well,” said Monica Leaming of Farmington, who attended the proceedings with her wife, Cecilia Taulbee. “I’m optimistic about the outcome, because there’s a strong indication that most New Mexicans support same-sex marriage.”
The Las Cruces Sun-News:
“I think the Supreme Court will sustain me,” Dona Ana County clerk Lynn Ellins said after the five justices heard arguments in the case.
An opponent of same-sex marriage, Sen. Bill Sharer, R-Farmington, issued a statement after the hearing that seemed to look forward to elections based on the issue rather than the actual decision.
“Whatever the State Supreme Court rules on same-sex marriage, it is not necessarily the final word,” Sharer said. “New Mexico voters have the final say. If they don’t like the ruling, voters have options. Voters can change the State Supreme Court judges, they can change their State Legislators, and New Mexico voters could vote on a constitutional amendment defining marriage is between a man and a woman, as it has been since our culture was formed.”
Sharer has been leading a group of Republican legislators who oppose same-sex marriage legalization.
The Albuquerque Journal reported nearly 170 people attended the hearings, requiring overflow rooms to accomodate all the watchers.
Right now, county clerks in eight counties are issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Five of the counties, Bernalillo, Grant, Los Alamos, Santa Fe, and Taos, are doing so under court order. The other three are doing so under the volition of the county clerk.
Dona Ana County Clerk Lynn Ellins began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples on August 21 after he decided nothing in New Mexico’s law stopped him from doing so. County clerks in San Miguel and Valencia counties began issuing licenses following decisions by judges that did not directly mention those counties.
KUNM has the audio of the hearing available online. It was the first time that the state Supreme Court allowed webcasting of a Supreme Court hearing. Albuquerque TV station KOAT also webcast the proceedings.
New Mexico’s case is unique because the state does not indicate gender specificity in its marriage law. It does prescribe a male and female spot on marriage forms.
Update: Added link and quote from Dona Ana County Clerk Lynn Ellins.