Plaintiffs in New Mexico marriage equality challenge ask state supreme court to consolidate marriage cases
August 21, 2013
A same-sex couple who is suing the state of New Mexico for the right to marry has asked the state supreme court to consolidate its case with other challenges in the state. Cases in Santa Fe and Albuquerque are currently awaiting action in the lower courts, after the state supreme court declined to resolve the dispute earlier this month. While the highest court in the state didn’t rule on the issue immediately, it left open the option for lower courts to rule and set the stage for an expedited track to a final decision.
If the cases are consolidated, after the lower court’s ruling, the issue would go directly to the state supreme court:
The justices are being asked to consolidate all cases involving the gay marriage issue and assign them to a district court judge in Santa Fe, who would issue a ruling that would go directly to the Supreme Court for review.
The Supreme Court took a similar approach in 2011 by consolidating several competing lawsuits over the drawing of new district boundaries for legislative, congressional and other elected offices. The court assigned the redistricting challenges to a retired judge in Santa Fe. That avoided the possibility of conflicting rulings in different lower courts.
New Mexico’s attorney general had announced earlier that he wouldn’t defend the marriage equality ban. The situation in New Mexico is unique, because there is no explicit ban on same-sex marriage, nor is there a law allowing it. The state’s attorney general has said that he believes statutory language may ban same-sex marriage, but that the language is unconstitutional.
Earlier today, EqualityOnTrial reported the news that the county clerk of Doña Ana County in New Mexico has begun to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. County Clerk Lynn Ellins said that since court action to resolve the question could take years, he believes he has an obligation to “uphold the Constitution” and that requires issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples who want to marry, given the state attorney general’s legal opinion that New Mexico’s marriage laws violate the equal protection clause of the state constitution.