316 P.3d 865 (N.M. 2013), 34,306, Griego v. Oliver

Docket Nº:34,306.
Citation:316 P.3d 865, 2014 -NMSC- 003
Opinion Judge:CH
Party Name:Rose GRIEGO and Kimberly Kiel, Miriam Rand and Ona Lara Porter, A.D. Joplin and Greg Gomez, Therese Councilor and Tanya Struble, Monica Leaming and Cecelia Taulbee, and Jen Roper and Angelique Neuman, Plaintiffs-Real Parties in Interest, v. Maggie Toulouse OLIVER, in her official capacity as Clerk of Bernalillo County, and Geraldine Salazar, in her
Attorney:Sutin, Thayer & Browne, P.C., Peter S. Kierst, Lynn E. Mostoller, Albuquerque, NM, ACLU of New Mexico, Laura Louise Schauer Ives, Alexandra Freedman Smith, Albuquerque, NM, American Civil Liberties Union Foundation, Elizabeth O. Gill, James D. Esseks, San Francisco, CA, Law Office of Lynn Perls, ...
Judge Panel:WE CONCUR: PETRA JIMENEZ MAES, Chief Justice, RICHARD C. BOSSON, CHARLES W. DANIELS, and BARBARA J. VIGIL, Justices.
Case Date:December 19, 2013
Court:Supreme Court of New Mexico
 
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Page 865

316 P.3d 865 (N.M. 2013)

2014 -NMSC- 003

Rose GRIEGO and Kimberly Kiel, Miriam Rand and Ona Lara Porter, A.D. Joplin and Greg Gomez, Therese Councilor and Tanya Struble, Monica Leaming and Cecelia Taulbee, and Jen Roper and Angelique Neuman, Plaintiffs-Real Parties in Interest,

v.

Maggie Toulouse OLIVER, in her official capacity as Clerk of Bernalillo County, and Geraldine Salazar, in her official capacity as Clerk of Santa Fe County, Defendants-Real Parties in Interest,

and

State of New Mexico, ex rel., New Mexico Association of Counties, as the collective and organizational representative of New Mexico's thirty-three (33) Counties, and M. Keith Riddle, in his official capacity as Clerk of Catron County, Dave Kunko, in his official capacity as Clerk of Chaves County, Elisa Bro, in her official capacity as Clerk of Cibola County, Freda L. Baca, in her official capacity as Clerk of Colfax County, Rosalie L. Riley, in her official capacity as Clerk of Curry County, Rosalie A. Gonzales-Joiner, in her official capacity as Clerk of De Baca County, Darlene Rosprim, in her official capacity as Clerk of Eddy County, Robert Zamarripa, in his official capacity as Clerk of Grant County, Patrick Z. Martinez, in his official capacity as Clerk of Guadalupe County, Barbara L. Shaw, in her official capacity as Clerk of Harding County, Melissa K. De La Garza, in her official capacity as Clerk of Hidalgo County, Pat Snipes Chappelle, in her official capacity as Clerk of Lea County, Rhonda B. Burrows, in her official capacity as Clerk of Lincoln County, Sharon Stover, in her official capacity as Clerk of Los Alamos County, Andrea Rodriguez, in her official capacity as Clerk of Luna County, Harriett K. Becenti, in her official capacity as Clerk of McKinley County, Joanne Padilla, in her official capacity as Clerk of Mora County, Denise Y. Guerra, in her official capacity as Clerk of Otero County, Veronica Olguin Marez, in her official capacity as Clerk of Quay County, Moises A. Morales, Jr., in his official capacity as Clerk of Rio Arriba County, Donna J. Carpenter, in her official capacity as Clerk of Roosevelt County, Debbie A. Holmes, in her official capacity as Clerk of San Juan County, Melanie Y. Rivera, in her official capacity as Clerk of San Miguel County, Eileen Moreno Garbagni, in her official capacity as Clerk of Sandoval County, Connie Greer, in her official capacity as Clerk of Sierra County, Rebecca Vega, in her official capacity as Clerk of Socorro County, Anna Martinez, in her official capacity as Clerk of Taos County, Linda Jaramillo, in her official capacity as Clerk of Torrance County, Mary Lou Harkins, in her official capacity as Clerk of Union County, and Peggy Carabajal, in her official capacity as Clerk of Valencia County, Intervenors-Petitioners,

and

Lynn J. Ellins, in his official capacity as Clerk of Dona Ana County, Real Party in Interest,

and

Hon. Alan M. Malott, Respondent.

No. 34,306.

Supreme Court of New Mexico.

December 19, 2013

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Sutin, Thayer & Browne, P.C., Peter S. Kierst, Lynn E. Mostoller, Albuquerque, NM, ACLU of New Mexico, Laura Louise Schauer Ives, Alexandra Freedman Smith, Albuquerque, NM, American Civil Liberties Union Foundation, Elizabeth O. Gill, James D. Esseks, San Francisco, CA, Law Office of Lynn Perls, N. Lynn Perls, Albuquerque, NM, Wray & Girard, P.C., Jane Katherine Girard, Albuquerque, NM, National Center for Lesbian Rights, Shannon P. Minter, Christopher F. Stoll, San Francisco, CA, Sanders & Westbrook, P.C., Maureen A. Sanders, Albuquerque, NM, for Plaintiffs.

Office of the Bernalillo County Attorney, Randy M. Autio, County Attorney, Peter S. Auh, Deputy County Attorney, Albuquerque, NM, Office of the Santa Fe County Attorney, Stephen C. Ross, County Attorney, Willie R. Brown, Assistant County Attorney, Santa Fe, NM, for Defendants.

New Mexico Association of Counties and the Intervening County Clerks, Steven Kopelman, Grace Philips, Santa Fe, NM, The Ivey-Soto Law Firm, Daniel A. Ivey-Soto, Albuquerque, NM, for Intervenors.

Gary K. King, Attorney General, Scott Fuqua, Assistant Attorney General, Sean M. Cunniff, Assistant Attorney General, Santa Fe, NM, for Respondent.

The Carrillo Law Firm, P.C., Raul A. Carrillo, Jr., Karen Elaine Wootton, Las Cruces, NM, for Amicus Curiae Dona Ana County Clerk.

Alliance Defending Freedom, James A. Campbell, Joseph E. La Rue, Scottsdale, AZ, Evie M. Jilek, Albuquerque, NM, for Amicus Curiae New Mexico Legislators.

Jenner & Block LLP, Paul M. Smith, Washington, DC, Rothstein, Donatelli, Hughes, Dahlstrom, Schoenburg & Beinvenu, LLP, Sarah Eileen Bennett, Santa Fe, NM, Caren Ilene Friedman, Santa Fe, NM, for Amici Curiae, American Psychological Association, New Mexico Psychological Association, National Association of Social Workers, National Association of Social Workers New Mexico, and New Mexico Pediatric Society.

Office of the Santa Fe City Attorney, Eugene I. Zamora, City Attorney, Zachary A. Shandler, Assistant City Attorney, Santa Fe, NM, for Amicus Curiae City of Santa Fe.

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University of New Mexico School of Law, Max Justin Minzner, George L. Bach, Jr., Albuquerque, NM, for Amicus Curiae, Professors at University of New Mexico School of Law.

Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders, Mary Bonauto, Boston, MA, Daniel Yohalem, Santa Fe, NM, for Amici Curiae, Equality New Mexico, National Organization for Women Foundation, New Mexico National Organization for Women, PFLAG New Mexico, Southwest Women's Law Center, Freedom to Marry, Prosperity Works, American Veterans for Equal Rights-Bataan Chapter, Transgender Resource Center of New Mexico, Human Rights Alliance, Organizers in the Land of Enchantment, Media Literacy Project, New Mexico Lesbian and Gay Lawyers Association, Anti-Defamation League, Pacific Association of Reform Rabbis, Temple Beth Shalom of Santa Fe, The Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Santa Fe, Rev. Talitha Arnold, Rev. Kathryn A. Schlechter, Rising Sun Ministries, Metropolitan Community Church of Albuquerque.

OPINION

CHÁVEZ, Justice.

{1} " All persons are born equally free, and have certain natural, inherent and inalienable rights, among which are the rights of enjoying and defending life and liberty, of acquiring, possessing and protecting property, and of seeking and obtaining safety and happiness." N.M. Const. art. II, § 4. These inherent rights, enjoyed by all New Mexicans, appear along with twenty-three other provisions known as the New Mexico Bill of Rights, which include the right to bear arms, freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom from unreasonable government searches and seizures, due process, and the equal protection of the laws. See N.M. Const. art. II, §§ 6, 10, 17, 18. When government is alleged to have threatened any of these rights, it is the responsibility of the courts to interpret and apply the protections of the Constitution. The United States Supreme Court explained the courts' responsibility as follows:

The very purpose of a Bill of Rights was to withdraw certain subjects from the vicissitudes of political controversy, to place them beyond the reach of majorities and officials and to establish them as legal principles to be applied by the courts. One's right to life, liberty, and property, to free speech, a free press, freedom of worship and assembly, and other fundamental rights may not be submitted to vote; they depend on the outcome of no elections.

W. Virginia State Bd. of Educ. v. Barnette, 319 U.S. 624, 638, 63 S.Ct. 1178, 87 L.Ed. 1628 (1943). Thus, when litigants allege that the government has unconstitutionally interfered with a right protected by the Bill of Rights, or has unconstitutionally discriminated against them, courts must decide the merits of the allegation. If proven, courts must safeguard constitutional rights and order an end to the discriminatory treatment.

{2} Interracial marriages were once prohibited by laws in many states until the United States Supreme Court declared such laws unconstitutional and ordered an end to the discriminatory treatment. Loving v. Virginia, 388 U.S. 1, 12, 87 S.Ct. 1817, 18 L.Ed.2d 1010 (1967) (" [R]estricting the freedom to marry solely because of racial classifications violates the central meaning of the Equal Protection Clause." ). The same-gender couples in this case, all of whom are in long-term, committed relationships, some of whom have raised foster and adoptive children together, allege that they have a constitutional right under the Due Process and Equal Protection provisions of New Mexico's Bill of Rights to enter into civil marriages and to enjoy the concomitant legal rights, protections, and responsibilities of marriage. Consistent with our constitutional responsibility to determine whether legislation offends the New Mexico Constitution, the question we must answer is whether the State of New Mexico may decline to recognize civil marriages between same-gender couples and therefore deprive them of the rights, protections, and responsibilities available to opposite-gender married couples without violating the New Mexico Constitution.

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{3} Although this question arouses sincerely-felt religious beliefs both in favor of and against same-gender marriages, our analysis does not and cannot depend on religious doctrine without violating the Constitution. 1 See N.M. Const. art. II, § 11, Larson v. Valente, 456 U.S. 228, 244, 102 S.Ct. 1673, 72 L.Ed.2d 33 (1982) (" [O]ne religious denomination cannot be officially preferred over another." ). Instead we must depend upon legal principles to analyze the statutory and constitutional bases for...

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