September 6, 2013
Last week, we reported on the news that an Albuquerque judge had decided to allow the clerks of 31 of New Mexico’s counties, along with the New Mexico Association of Counties, to intervene in a lawsuit out of Bernalillo County seeking a court ruling that marriage equality is allowed under state law.
All 33 of the county clerks voted unanimously at the time to intervene in the suit in hopes that their participation would encourage the state Supreme Court to take up the case soon and issue a definitive ruling on the state of marriage laws in New Mexico. Yesterday, the association of counties filed its petition, the AP reported:
New Mexico’s 33 counties asked the state’s highest court Thursday to decide whether gay marriage is legal in the state and to stop the spread of lawsuits that have forced some county officials to start issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
“The bottom line is we’re looking for a uniform answer,” said Steve Kopelman, general counsel for the county group. “There’s a controversy here. This is not a simple issue legally. But we’re not weighing in on the moral issue. We’re weighing in on the law.”
Eight counties in New Mexico currently allow same-sex couples to apply for marriage licenses. Some clerks have made that decision on their own; others have been ordered to do so by the courts.
Last week, Alan Malott, the Albuquerque judge, ruled that denying marriage licenses requests from same-sex couples violates the New Mexico constitution, pointing specifically to a 1972 constitutional amendment banning discrimination “on account of the sex of any person.”
In their request, the clerks and the association of counties asked the state Supreme Court to issue a special order on the question of marriage equality called a writ of superintending control. That order would create a definitive–and uniform–legal opinion for clerks across the state to rely on rather than waiting for possibly lengthly appeals out of several counties.
The counties noted in their filing that marriage equality litigation is currently pending against eight counties and that 18 other counties have been contacted due to marriage license denials and will likely face litigation in the future. ”Superintending Control is appropriate in this matter,” the brief argues, “because remedy by appeal is wholly inadequate…. Litigation in all thirty-three … Counties expends precious judicial resources.”
Read the full brief below via Equality Case Files. (H/t to Kathleen.)