Nearly 170 people crammed into the court’s chambers and several overflow rooms for the hearing, while others had to be turned away due to a lack of space.
While the state’s highest court did not issue an immediate ruling on the issue, same-sex marriage advocates said after the hearing they like their chances.
“I thought it went very well,” said Monica Leaming of Farmington, who attended the proceedings with her wife, Cecilia Taulbee. “I’m optimistic about the outcome, because there’s a strong indication that most New Mexicans support same-sex marriage.”
Meanwhile, gay marriage opponents suggested they would pursue a statewide election — via a constitutional amendment — on the issue of gay marriage if the Supreme Court rules to sanction it.
“I think the most important thing here is no matter what their decision is, the issue will not be settled until the people speak,” said Sen. Bill Sharer, R-Farmington.
Sharer also said two of the court’s five justices appeared to have their minds made up in favor of gay marriage.
During the two-hour oral arguments, several Supreme Court justices had pointed questions for James Campbell, an Arizona-based attorney representing Sharer and other GOP legislators.
At one point, justice Richard Bosson appeared to take issue with Campbell’s argument that the state has an interest in ensuring that marriage remains limited to between one man and one woman.
“Marriage is much more than just a vehicle for natural procreation,” Bosson said, pointing out the state does not ask heterosexual couples whether they plan to have children.
A total of 1,466 marriage licenses — most of them in Bernalillo and Santa Fe Counties — have been issued to same-sex couples across New Mexico since August, when lower court rulings opened the door to gay marriage.
However, only eight of the state’s 33 counties are currently issuing marriage licenses to gay and lesbian couples.
It’s unclear when the New Mexico Supreme Court will issue a ruling in the case, which is technically known as Griego v. Oliver. But several attorneys said they suspect a decision could come quickly.