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Editorial: Let N.M. voters decide on same-sex marriage

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Can we get married?

That’s a question two Santa Fe men want answered – and sooner rather than later. The couple, which was denied a marriage license by the Santa Fe County clerk in June, is asking the New Mexico Supreme Court to decide whether gay marriages will be legal here.

The U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling late last month to recognize same-sex marriages at the federal level if they occurred in states where it is legal but to leave it up to states to decide whether to allow it, has put the issue on the front burner and back where it belongs. The court wisely chose the federalist path in kicking the issue back to the states, thus avoiding the creation of another never-ending national conflict, such as the one that dogs the court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling on abortion rights.

New Mexico statutes and its Constitution do not specifically allow or prohibit same sex marriages, but in practice they have not been allowed.

The state Supreme Court is expected to decide fairly soon whether to hear the Santa Fe case. But the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling leaves open another, more inclusive avenue for resolving the issue at the state level.

The Legislature should put the question to New Mexico voters in the form of a constitutional amendment. That way the people, instead of a panel of five judges, get to decide how marriage is defined in New Mexico.

A constitutional amendment offers the clearest answer to the question and in the long term the one that will be least divisive.

This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.

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