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New Mexico Supreme Court to hear gay marriage case next week

Case will determine if state will become 15th in the US to allow same-sex marriage
New Mexico Supreme Court

New Mexico's Supreme Court announced Friday (18 October) that it will hear a case next week that could result in the state becoming the 15th in the US to allow same-sex marriage.

The court could issue an immediate ruling on whether a State District Judge in Albuquerque was legally correct by ruling that it is unconstitutional to deny marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

The issue has become quite pressing in recent months when eight of the state's 33 counties began allowing the marriages. More than 1,000 licenses have been issued so far.

The counties are asking for clarification on the issue.

State law does not prohibit gay marriage nor does it explicitly authorize it and New Mexico Attorney General Gary King has stated that he believes preventing same-sex marriages is unconstitutional.

But there is a group of current and former legislators, almost all Republicans, who maintain in friend-of-the-court briefs that state law does ban it.

Lawmakers had been seeking to put the issue to a public vote through a November 2014 ballot amendment but the legal events are outpacing them.

The National Center for Lesbian Rights, which is representing some of the same-sex couples involved in the case, is confident of victory because of the equal protection guaranteesin the state's constitutional.

'New Mexico law already strongly prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation and generally requires equal treatment of same-sex couples and their families,' Shannon Minter, legal director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights, tells the Associated Press. 'It is the next logical stop to hold that, yes, it also requires full equality when it comes marriage.'

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