SANTA FE (KRQE) - Neither side is speculating on the outcome now that the New Mexico Supreme Court has heard arguments on whether same-sex marriage is legal in the state.
"The marriage statutes viewed comprehensively can reach only one conclusion that marriage in this state is between a man and a woman," an attorney with a Christian law group representing a handful of Republican legislators told the justices Wednesday morning.
"Denying same-sex couples the right to marry is a violation of the New Mexico Constitution," countered Maureen Sanders, the attorney speaking for same-sex couples.
Crowds packed the Supreme Court quickly filling up overflow rooms. Elsewhere people held viewing parties to get a glimpse at the proceedings stream live by KRQE News 13 and other news outlets.
And the justices jumped right in.
"Is there any state that has statutes like ours, that are vague like ours?" Justice Richard Bosson queried.
Some questions took aim at Campbell's arguments.
"Why have there been repeated attempts over the years, particularly in the last half dozen years, to introduce legislation by various of your clients to specifically say marriage is between people of opposite sexes if the statutes are already clear on that?" Justice Charles Daniels asked.
Others aimed a Sanders case with Justice Edward Chavez asking if the issue was even in the right venue.
"Why is this a question of constitutional interpretation, which is our responsibility, as opposed to a social-policy issue, which is the responsibility of the Legislature?" he said.
After a lot of back and forth Daniels brought up what's been called the 800-pound gorilla in the room.
"The real debate over this is a religious debate," he said, "and the government shouldn't take sides in religious debates."
Campbell argued it's not a religious debate but rather a social one that should be decided by the voters, not the courts.
"At the end of the day this is a question for the Legislature and the people to decide the future of marriage," Campbell told reporters after the hearing.
That's something backers of gay marriage strongly disagree with.
"It would be wrong to put a fundamental right to be treated equally under the law up for a popular vote," Peter Simonson of the American Civil Liberties Union said after the hearing.
Now the waiting game starts for the more than 1,000 same-sex couples who have married in New Mexico the past few months:
"It's definitely a wait-and-see situation," said Kimberly Kiel. "We hope that the Supreme Court will do the right thing."
"We're very hopeful just because of the climate in the state and in the country," added Rose Griego. "This is a ball that's rolling forward that probably can't be stopped at this point."
Even if the justices declare that gay marriage is illegal, a University of New Mexico law professor told KRQE News 13 the marriage licenses already issued would still be valid, which could lead to a whole new court case.
The Republican lawmaker who has spearheaded efforts to stop gay marriage also was at the Supreme Court.
Sen. Bill Sharer, R-Farmington, said no matter what the justices rule, this isn't over.
"The people always have the last say because they can change legislators, they can change Supreme Court justices, they can vote on new constitutional amendments," Sharer said. "So until they're satisfied that the right decision has been made, this issue is not settled."
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