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New Mexico attorney general won’t defend marriage equality ban in court

Marriage equality Marriage Equality Trials

By Jacob CombsNew Mexico state seal

In a filing yesterday with the New Mexico Supreme Court, state Attorney General Gary King asked the 5-justice court to end the state’s lack of marriage equality, arguing that it violates the new Mexico Constitution.  From the AP:

In written arguments filed with the court, King said the justices should invalidate the state’s ban on gay marriage if they agree to resolve the issue in a lawsuit filed by two Santa Fe men who were denied a marriage license.

King, a Democrat who plans to run for governor next year against Republican Gov. Susana Martinez, said New Mexico law effectively doesn’t allow gay marriages although there’s no statutory provision that specifically prohibits, or authorizes, gay couples to be married.

“New Mexico’s guarantee of equal protection to its citizens demands that same-sex couples be permitted to enjoy the benefits of marriage in the same way and to the same extent as other New Mexico citizens,” King said in the filing.

The five-member court had asked King’s office to respond to the lawsuit. No hearing has been scheduled in the case so far, and it’s uncertain whether the Supreme Court will issue a decision resolving the same-sex marriage dispute.

The lawsuit was filed directly with the justices to try to get a speedy decision. However, the court could decide that the case should be handled differently and has to work its way through the legal system as an appeal from a lower court ruling.

But despite advocating for same-sex couples’ rights to access marriage licenses in the state, King also wrote in his filing that the Supreme Court should deny the specific request for a marriage license in this case because it was brought directly to the high court rather than to a lower court.  The plaintiffs went straight to the top court in an effort to obtain a speedier ruling; King believes the issue should be presented to a lower state court and then make its way to the Supreme Court through an appeal.

Earlier last month, after conducting a review of New Mexico state law, King announced in a press conference his determination that New Mexico law is unclear as to whether marriage equality is prohibited or allowed in the state, cautioning county clerks against issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples and calling for the courts to definitively settle the issue.  The couple who are bringing their case before the Supreme Court filed their challenge just hours after King’s announcement.

King’s legal review followed a resolution passed by the city of Santa Fe after a March press conference during which Mayor David Coss, City Councilor Patti Bushee and City Attorney Geno Zamora argued that New Mexico law (which contains no specific provision prohibiting marriage equality) should be construed to allow same-sex couples to marry.

Another marriage equality lawsuit is also currently pending in New Mexico.  That challenge, brought on behalf of two lesbian couples, one from Santa Fe and another from Aluquerque, the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) and the ACLU of New Mexico argue that the New Mexico Constitution guarantees marriage equality on the basis of its due process and equal protection provisions, its equal rights amendment, which holds that “[e]quality of rights under law shall not be denied on account of the sex of any person,” and its prohibitions on discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.  The case is known as Griego v. Oliver.

Earlier this year, the New Mexico House Voters & Elections Committee voted 7-4 against a bill that would have amended the state constitution to explicitly allow marriage equality.  The legislation had previously been approved by another House committee on a 3-2 vote.

3 Comments

  • 1. Equality On Trial »&hellip  |  August 16, 2013 at 5:05 pm

    […] month, New Mexico Attorney General Gary King announced his determination that state law prohibited marriage equality, although he also said that the […]

  • 2. Andrew  |  December 3, 2013 at 12:52 am

    To be honest, I am not that familiar with the laws of NM but this article has given me enough information about it. This really has been very informative. Thanks a lot for sharing this, Jacob.

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