Legislators to NM Supreme Court: Marriage is societal bedrock, presumed valid

Alliance Defending Freedom represents state lawmakers
Monday, September 23, 2013

Attorney sound bite:  Jim Campbell

SANTA FE, N.M. — Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys representing numerous current and former state lawmakers submitted their arguments in defense of the state’s marriage laws to the New Mexico Supreme Court Friday. The case reached the state’s high court after a district judge last month ordered Bernalillo County to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples even though state law does not permit it.

“As the New Mexico Supreme Court itself has stated previously, ‘A statute must be interpreted as the Legislature understood it at the time it was enacted,’” said Legal Counsel Jim Campbell. “The legislators who enacted New Mexico’s marriage laws more than a century ago indisputably understood marriage to be the union of a man and a woman, as both the current and former state attorneys general have acknowledged. Any argument suggesting that New Mexico law allows for marriage to be anything else is simply wrong, and any argument asserting that those laws are unconstitutional is equally flawed.”

As the legislators’ friend-of-the-court brief submitted in the case Griego v. Oliver explains, “The intent of the Legislature, a comprehensive reading of all the statutes addressing marriage, this Court’s treatment of marriage, the consensus of past and present New Mexico Attorneys General, and an unbroken line of precedent from other jurisdictions all confirm that the marriage statutes in this State permit marriage only between one man and one woman.”

The brief cites numerous examples in New Mexico marriage law of sex-specific language, including the use of the terms “male,” “female,” “husband,” and “wife.” It also provides substantial evidence that the rational purpose of those laws fully comports with the state constitution.

The New Mexico Supreme Court has acknowledged that it will generally uphold state laws against constitutional attack. To that end, it has written, “It is well settled that there is a presumption of the validity and regularity of legislative enactments. This Court must uphold such statutes unless it is satisfied beyond all reasonable doubt that the Legislature went outside the Constitution in enacting the challenged legislation. This Court has repeatedly refused to inquire into the wisdom, the policy or the justness of an act of the Legislature.” Stated differently in a later case, the high court wrote that the state’s courts will customarily “defer to the Legislature’s judgment in enacting social…legislation.”

“Deciding whether to fundamentally redefine marriage--society’s most basic institution--is a social question of the highest order…,” the brief explains. “Significant judicial deference is thus warranted when considering a fundamental change to a bedrock social institution.”

Oral argument in the case is scheduled for Oct. 23.

Alliance Defending Freedom is an alliance-building, non-profit legal organization that advocates for the right of people to freely live out their faith.
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