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Editorial: Marriage issue in need of statewide uniformity

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“We need some clarity.”

– Bernalillo County Clerk Maggie Toulouse Oliver

Just one day after New Mexico’s 33 county clerks asked the state Supreme Court for a statewide ruling on same-sex marriage, the court scheduled a hearing.

And while there is no guarantee the court will issue a decision immediately after the Oct. 23 hearing, it is noted justices quickly requested that legal briefs be filed by Sept. 23. Sen. Daniel Ivey-Soto, D-Albuquerque and executive director of the New Mexico County Clerks Affiliate, says “the fact the Supreme Court acted in one day on this shows they recognize the necessity for clarity in the law.”

Eight of New Mexico’s 33 counties – Bernalillo, Santa Fe, Doña Ana, Valencia, Taos, San Miguel, Los Alamos and Grant – now issue same-sex marriage licenses. The remaining 25 counties do not. This lack of uniformity has grown with the debate over whether the state constitution’s equal-protection clause trumps state law that requires “male” and “female” to be listed on marriage application forms. Both the attorney general and a state District Court judge have favored “A.” Seven Republican state lawmakers have filed a lawsuit to stop the Doña Ana clerk from issuing licenses, putting them firmly in the “B” camp.

New Mexico is the only state in the union with this procedural version of the same-sex marriage debate – according to experts, it stands alone in not explicitly allowing or disallowing same-sex marriage via legislation, a popular vote or a high court ruling.

It could be argued that legislation or a vote would more directly reflect the views of the public. That said, all of New Mexico’s residents, and especially its same-sex couples, deserve a decision that holds up in law and in court – not the current patchwork crafted by county clerks outside the legislative, executive and judicial branches.

The high court’s decision will be a welcome one.

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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