Santa Fe County Clerk Geraldine Salazar says the same-sex couple asking the New Mexico Supreme Court to force her to issue them a marriage license are going about it the wrong way.
Salazar’s response to Alexander Hanna and Yon Hudson’s petition for a writ of mandamus says the state constitution limits such direct petitions to the Supreme Court to cases against state officers, boards and commissions.
Because Salazar is an elected county officer, they should have started in state District Court, says the response signed by Assistant County Attorney Willie R. Brown.
In addition, the response maintains that Salazar “correctly followed the state’s marriage laws which, viewed in their entirety, clearly apply only to persons of opposite sex, and were enacted without any known sexually discriminatory animus decades before adoption of the state’s Equal Rights Amendment and laws prohibiting employees from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation.”
Brian Egolf, who is representing Hanna and Hudson, said Salazar initially indicated to his clients, as well as to others, that she favors marriage equality, so he had expected a response more sympathetic to same-sex marriage, like the recent one by state Attorney General Gary King.
“She marches in the pride parade, and we heard from lots of folks that she is in agreement with the goals of bringing marriage equality to New Mexico,” Egolf said. “So we were really surprised that her brief takes a position squarely opposing marriage equality on the merits.”
Santa Fe County Attorney Stephen Ross said Egolf, a Democratic state representative from Santa Fe, and his law partners “kept coming over here, urging us not to file a response. That’s their deal. But after the Supreme Court issued its order [telling Salazar to file a response by Monday], that wasn’t in the cards. … She was basically being accused of something improper.”
The city of Santa Fe has taken the opposite tack by filing an amicus brief in support of Hanna and Hudson’s petition and passing a resolution urging the Supreme Court to rule in favor of same-sex marriage. Santa Fe County Commissioner Liz Stefanics, a former state senator from Santa Fe and the only openly gay commissioner, said she plans to introduce a resolution similar to the City Council's next week.
The state Supreme Court could decline to rule on Hanna and Hudson’s case, dismiss it, send it to District Court or issue the writ as requested. It has yet to set a hearing for oral arguments. Hanna and Hudson initially filed their case in the First Judicial District, then withdrew it so they could directly petition the high court. A group of Republican state legislators from Albuquerque and the east side of New Mexico has asked to file an amicus brief in the case.
A similar case brought on behalf of other same-sex couples by the American Civil Liberties Union has been filed in the 2nd Judicial District in Albuquerque and also in the state Supreme Court.
Contact Tom Sharpe at 986-3080 or firstname.lastname@example.org.