NM Supreme Court mulls legality of gay marriage

Posted at: 10/23/2013 7:48 AM
Updated at: 10/23/2013 1:27 PM
By: Nikki Ibarra and Elizabeth Reed, KOB Eyewitness News 4

A large line formed Wednesday morning outside the New Mexico Supreme Court building.
A large line formed Wednesday morning outside the New Mexico Supreme Court building.
Photo: Nikki Ibarra, KOB Eyewitness News 4

SANTA FE -- The New Mexico Supreme Court finished hearing arguments about the legality of same-sex marriage on Wednesday morning, but a ruling won't come down right away.

In fact, it could take weeks for justices to determine if New Mexico's constitution permits gay and lesbian couples to obtain marriage licenses.

Attorneys on both sides of the issue spoke for an hour each and answered dozens of questions from the justices.

James Campbell, an attorney for those opposing gay marriage in New Mexico, cited studies about children needing a mother and father figure in the household. He said the legal definition of marriage is between a man and a woman.

Maureen Sanders, an attorney for same-sex marriage supporters, said all marriages need to be treated equally. She was also grilled with questions from the justices, one who even said New Mexico is "forced" to recognize out of state same-sex marriages.

In August, the Doña Ana County clerk announced he would issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples because there was nothing in the state's constitution preventing it. Seven county clerks followed suit; some because of an Albuquerque district court judge's ruling that it is unconstitutional to deny marriage licenses to gay and lesbian couples.

The state's highest court agreed to hear the case after several county clerks asked the justices to clarify the law.

New Mexico is the only state in the country without a clear definition of who can marry. The constitution only defines marriage as between two parties and is not gender specific.