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New Mexico Supreme Court declines immediate hearing of marriage equality case

Marriage equality

New Mexico state sealThe New Mexico Supreme Court has turned down two requests for an opinion explaining whether the state–which has no law explicitly allowing nor explicitly prohibiting marriage equality–must issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, the AP reports:

New Mexico’s highest court isn’t going to immediately decide whether gay marriage is legal in the state and instead will allow lower courts to first consider the issue.

The state Supreme Court has denied requests by same-sex couples from Santa Fe, Albuquerque and other communities who had asked the justices to declare gay marriage legal.

Two lawsuits were filed directly with the court to try to get a speedy decision, but the justices rejected them on Thursday in brief orders without a detailed explanation. However, the justices said the gay marriage issue could be pursued in a lower court “with a right to request expedited review.”

In both lawsuits, lawyers for the couples asked the state high court to take up the issue before it had been considered by a lower court, arguing that the matter was one of enormous constitutional importance that should be decided as soon as possible.  The Supreme Court’s ruling–which is not entirely surprising–means that those couples will have to make their cases to lower trial courts and then, in all likelihood, have those challenges appealed up to the high court.

Last month, New Mexico Attorney General Gary King announced his determination that state law prohibited marriage equality, although he also said that the marriage ban violated the state constitution.  In the filing in which he made that statement, he urged the high court not to take up the case directly, instead calling for it to be considered by a lower court.

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