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Same-sex marriage (SSM) in New Mexico:

2013-OCT: 100 pro-SSM clergy. NM Supreme
Court hearing of Griego v. Oliver. Informal poll.

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Discussion of his item is continued from the previous essay

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2013 (Unknown date): Over 100 New Mexico clergy signed a statement of support for marriage equality:

The statement was signed by clergy from mainline and progressive Christian denominations, Zen Buddhism, Jewish traditions, Unitarian Universalism, and various spiritual centers. It reads:

"We, the undersigned clergy and religious leaders from across New Mexico, draw upon our moral convictions and our personal faith to support the freedom to marry in our state.

We are leaders of various faith communities, who have lived and ministered closely with thousands of families through all of life’s glory, tragedy, and tedium. Some of these families are headed by same-sex couples. They, like many of us, enjoy the holidays with aunts and cousins, struggle to meet the mortgage, and fret over children who aren’t doing well in school.

These families are our neighbors, our co-workers, our friends and our peers. As people of faith and as New Mexicans, we believe in loving our neighbors, and treating one another as we would like to be treated—with dignity and respect. This means recognizing the love and commitment of lesbian and gay couples through marriage.

Entering into a committed, loving relationship is one of life’s most sacred and holy gifts. Marriage means responsibility and hard work, but it also brings life-changing protections for a family. Those of us who are married often take for granted the fact that we will not be questioned when we go to the hospital to visit our spouse; that no one can step between a mother and her children; that if death comes suddenly and we are unprepared, our spouse or children will not be denied inheritance in those mournful hours. Most heterosexual couples wouldn’t want to be denied these joys and protections that come with marriage, and when they think about it, they wouldn’t want to deny that to anyone else, either.

We recognize that there are a diversity of views in the faith community, and respect the right of religious groups to refuse to officiate or bless marriages for lesbian or gay couples. Indeed, not everyone in our congregations or denominations agrees with this viewpoint. By the same token, we support civil marriage fairness as an issue of religious freedom, for a denial of civil recognition dishonors the religious convictions of those communities and clergy who do officiate, and bless, marriages for same-sex couples.

Our religious principles are grounded in a love and acceptance of all people, and we believe deeply that means embracing marriage between same-sex couples.

New Mexico has a long history of valuing and protecting the humanity and dignity of every person. It is time to extend this tradition to families that include same-sex couples. 1

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2013- OCT: Events leading up to the New Mexico Supreme Court's hearing:

According to The Advocate:

"The case before the state's highest court today was filed on behalf of six same-sex couples represented by the American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of New Mexico, and the National Center for Lesbian Rights. ... These couples contend that the court should consider a request by the New Mexico Association of Counties to determine if the right to marry extends to gay and lesbian couples in New Mexico." 2

A total of 1,466 marriage licenses had been issued to same-sex couples at the time of the hearing. 3 However it is not clear whether their subsequent marriages are valid.

Meanwhile, state Senator William Sharer (R) is leading a group of legislators who are opposed to marriage equality. They are planning to launch a separate lawsuit to stop same-sex marriages in the state. In the event that the Supreme Court legalizes SSM, their backup plan is to launch a plebiscite to amend the constitution and prohibit same-sex marriage. He said:

"I think the most important thing here is no matter what their decision is, the issue will not be settled until the people speak." 3

By letting the "people speak," he is apparently referring to a future plebiscite by the voters to amend the state Constitution to ban SSM. However, he seems incorrect. If the Supreme Court were to authorize SSM and the voters subsequently passed such an amendment, the matter would still not be settled. That is because support for, and opposition to, SSM by the public are both moving targets. Support is gradually increasing and opposition gradually falling -- both by about 1 to 2 percentage points per year. That may not sound like much, but over a decade, this represents an over 20 percentage point change in the margin between support and opposition. Thus, a pro-equality organization need only wait a while, schedule a second plebescite to repeal the previous amendment, and restore SSM to the state.

In the past, at a time when one of the state district courts had issued a ruling on marriage equality, Sharer had said:

"It is up the New Mexico state legislature, with the consent of the governor of New Mexico, to make laws and for county clerks and district court judges to abide by them. ... [Clerks and judges] do not make the laws. It is inexplicable how a district court just today discovered a new definition of marriage in our laws, when our marriage law has not been changed in over a century." 2

Senator Sharer is correct that county clerks cannot make state laws. However, what is truly inexplicable that:

  • Senator Sharer is unfamiliar with one of the main functions of the New Mexico state court system. That is, to compare one or more state laws with the state constitution to determine whether a conflict exists. If such a conflict is found, then the Constitution requires that the court issue a ruling that declares the law under study to be unconstitutional. That is precisely what has happened multiple times in various disctrict courts during 2013 over wedding licenses for same-sex couples.

  • He also seems unaware that the county clerks must take an oath of office in which they commit themselves to follow the New Mexico Constitution. When the Constitution disagrees with a state law, then they are obligated to follow the Constitution. In New Mexico, several clerks and district court judges noted that the Constitution clearly requires that the state not discriminate on the basis of gender or sexual orientation. It became obvious to them that the state cannot prohibit anotherwise qualified same-sex couples from marrying.

It is true that the New Mexico marriage laws do not explicitly state that same-sex couples cannot marry. However the laws do contain marriage forms which have headings for "Bride" and "Groom." This suggests to some that only opposite-sex couples can marry. However, even if this were true, the Constitution rules. The laws are unconstitutional and thus should not be followed.

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2013- OCT: State Supreme Court holds hearing for Griego v. Oliver lawsuit:

Although two overflow rooms were provided, the facilities at the Supreme Court could only handle 170 members of the public. Some were turned away because of lack of space. 3 Fortunately, KRQE-TV and other news outlets broadcast the proceedings live.

Lawyers were given a total of two hours to present their cases. One hour was devoted to constitutional items; the other about state marriage statutes. 4

During the hearing, Attorney Maureen Sanders, argued on behalf of the plaintiffs -- six same-sex couples -- that it was a violation of the New Mexico Constitution to ban marriage by same-sex couples. She countered the opposition's argument that marriage is intended primarily as a vehicle for procreation. Instead, she said that marriage is viewed by many people in the state as:

"... more than a vehicle for procreation. ... [marriage is] a relationship between two individuals, whether or not they want to have children."

It is a little difficult to see how a marriage can be a relationship. Marriage is more the recognition of an existing committed relationship.

She noted that there is no "litmus test" for procreation. The state has never asked couples whether they are planning to have children before granting them a marriage license.

She said:

"It is this Court’s responsibility to say denying same-sex couples the right to marry is a violation of the NM Constitution." 5

Justice Richard Bosson seemed to agree partly with Sanders' comment. He said:

"Marriage is much more than just a vehicle for natural procreation."

Some couples are infertile because of deficiencies in their reproductive systems; some because of disability; some because of their age. Same-sex couples cannot conceive by themselves. But infertile couples can often build their family through adoption, artificial insemination, surrogate motherhood, in vitro fertilization.

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This topic continues in the next essay

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. "Interfaith Religious Leaders in New Mexico Supporting the Freedom to Marry," Why Marriage Matters, New Mexico, undated, at: http://www.whymarriagemattersnewmexico.org/
  2. Sunnivie Brydum, "Watch As New Mexico Supreme Court Considers Marriage Equality," The Advocate, 2013-OCT-23, at: http://www.advocate.com/
  3. Dan Boyd, "NM Supreme Court: No immediate ruling on same-sex marriage, but plenty of tough questions," Albuquerque Journal, 2013-OCT-23, at: http://www.abqjournal.com/
  4. "Court won’t immediately decide gay marriage case," Associated Press, 2013-OCT-21, at: http://www.abqjournal.com/
  5. David Badash, "Same-Sex Marriage: Here’s What Just Happened In New Mexico’s Supreme Court,"The New Civil Rights Movement," 2013-OCT-23, at: http://thenewcivilrightsmovement.com/
  6. "New Mexico Court hears arguments in marriage case," CITIZENLink / Focus on the Family, 2013-OCT-23, at: http://www.citizenlink.com/
  7. "KOAT Albuquerque" home page, at: http://www.koat.com/ The survey will probably be a temporary posting.
  8. "Full video: NM Supreme Court hearing on gay marriage," KOAT-TV, 2013-OCT-23, at: http://www.koat.com/ The video is in eight parts and comes with excellent quality video but, unfortunately, with almost undecipherable audio.
  9. Sunnivie Brydum, "WATCH: Highlights From New Mexico's Marriage Equality Hearing," The Advocate, 2013-OCT-24, at: http://www.advocate.com/
  10. "West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette," Wikipedia, as on 2013-OCT-13, at: http://en.wikipedia.org/

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Copyright © 2013 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2013-SEP-28
Latest update: 2013-NOV-12
Author: B.A. Robinson

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