SANTA FE, N.M. -- With New Jersey now in the fold as the 14th state to embrace marriage equality, the nation’s attention is swiftly shifting to New Mexico where the state Supreme Court on Wednesday will hear oral arguments on same-gender marriage.
New Mexico is the only U.S. state that has not taken a legal stance on marriage equality. The state Constitution doesn’t address the issue, and Legislature has failed in several attempts since 2008 to pass legislation involving civil unions, domestic partnerships and marriage equality.
But on Aug. 21, the County Clerk of Doña Ana County began issuing marriage licenses to gay and lesbian couples who want to marry, and the floodgates opened in New Mexico. Since then, four federal judges have ruled in favor of marriage-equality litigants in New Mexico and county clerks in eight counties, representing almost 60% of the state’s population, are issuing marriage licenses to gay and lesbian couples who want to marry. To date, almost 900 gay and lesbian couples have married in New Mexico, according to marriage advocates.
County clerks representing state's 33 counties then asked the New Mexico Supreme Court to clarify the situation and decide whether the federal court rulings were valid under the state Constitution.
The five elected justices, who tend to lean liberal on social issues according to legal experts, will hear arguments in Griego v. Oliver, in which six same-gender couples sued the State of New Mexico and the County Clerks in Santa Fe and Bernalillo counties for the freedom to marry.
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