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Same-sex marriage (SSM) in New Mexico:

2013: Marriage equality arrives in one county.
Emergency petition to state District Court.
Republican leaders try to stem the tide.
2nd county clerk issue licenses to SSM couples.

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2013-AUG-21: Marriage licenses issued to same-sex couples:

Lynn Ellins, the County Clerk of Dona Ana County in New Mexico began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. He said that he had reviewed state laws, and presumably the New Mexico Constitution, and had concluded that the:

"... state's marriage statutes are gender neutral and do not expressly prohibit Dona Ana County from issuing marriage licenses to same-gender couples."

County Clerks' oath of office includes a clause requiring them to obey the U.S. Constitution. Thus, he may have also have reviewed the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling in Windsor v. U.S. and concluded from Justice Kennedy's ruling that the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution guarantees that all couples -- both opposite-sex and same-sex -- have a constitutional right to purchase marriage licenses, as long as they meet the age and consignuity -- i.e. they are not too closely related genetically -- requirements of the New Mexico marriage act.

As the news spread, dozens of same-sex couples rushed to the courthouse in Las Cruces on AUG-21 to pick up their licenses. Char Ullman, 51, an author and Associate Professor of anthropology was grading dissertations in a coffee shop when her partner, Carrie Hamblen, 45, sent her an email asking "You want to get married?" She rushed home, bushed her teeth and headed to the court house. They were one of the first same-sex couples to obtain a marriage license, Ullman said:

"People started clapping as soon as we walked in. And more are coming from Albuquerque trying to make it here by this afternoon."

Lynn Ellins' office sold 35 marriage licenses to same-sex couples on the first day. This compares to 4 or 5 in a typical day for opposite-sex couples. He said:

"It's a happy office today. Lots of happy people. One of the first couples that came in today said they had been waiting 31 years. Another couple says they've been waiting 43 years. It's time to stop waiting. ... Any further denial of marriage licenses to these couples violates the United States and New Mexico Constitution and the New Mexico Human Rights Act. I see no reason to make committed couples in Dona Ana County wait another minute to marry." 1

Jeff Williams, is a County public information officer and ordained by the Internet-based Universal Life Church. Since New Mexico has no waiting period, he was marrying same-sex couples all day long.

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Attorney General decides to not intervene:

Later on AUG-21, New Mexico Attorney General Gary King said that he had no plans to challenge the move by Ellins or by another other county clerks who might issue licenses to same-sex couples. He said that:

"We feel like our position that the law is unconstitutional presents a barrier to us from bringing any action."

However, he noted that when a currently active case reaches the state Supreme Court, if the Court rules against SSM, that issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples would have to stop. and that existing licenses may become invalid. 1

Readers of the ABC News article posted their contrasting thoughts on the Attorney General's policy:

  • "David" wrote:

    "Mr. King is following the current law of New Mexico as is the Dona Ana County Clerk. There is nothing in the New Mexico constitution or the New Mexico statutes specifically limiting marriage to same-sex couples. However, the New Mexico constitution and numerous other laws in New Mexico prohibit discrimination [on the basis of gender]. Kudos to the Dona Ana County Clerk for following the New Mexico constitution and refusing to discriminate against citizens of New Mexico based on sexual orientation."

  • "Cincinnatus" wrote:

    "It is quite amusing how democrat party AG's have the mistaken belief that they are JUDGES, instead of AGs. It is a gross dereliction of duty for an AG to fail to use his best efforts to enforce the law of his jurisdiction, because he "believes" that a law is not Constitutional. He should be removed and he should be disbarred." 1

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2013-AUG-21: ACLU-NM filed emergency request with state court for Bernalillo County:

The American Civil Liberties Association of New Mexico and the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) filed an emergency request with the New Mexico Second Judicial District Court asking for permission for a same-sex couple to marry. They are Jen Roper and Angelique Neuman from Pojoaque, NM. Jen Roper is suffering from terminally brain cancer and is not expected to live much longer. They want their three children to be legally protected after Jen's death.

Lynn Perls, their attorney said:

"After 21 years in an intimate and committed relationship, including raising three sons together Jen Roper and Angelique Newman are facing Jen's terminal diagnosis together.  They both need the safety net provided by marriage under the laws of the state of New Mexico and our country, and they cannot afford to wait.  They deserve the chance to marry now, before it is too late."

Amber Royster of Equality New Mexico said:

"Same-sex couples face these painful and devastating circumstances every day.  Every second that passes without legal recognition of the love and commitment between same-sex couples is added fear and uncertainty about whether we can provide for and protect our families. EQNM applauds the courage of Jen and Angelique to help bring this reality to the forefront of the debate here in New Mexico." 2 More developments.

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2013-AUG-22: Republican leaders organize against SSM.

Republican leaders State Senator Bill Sharer of Farmington and Rep. Terry McMillian of Las Cruces started organizing an effort to make marriage once more unavailable to same-sex couples. 3

With recent developments in the state, it appears that the only way they can roll back the clock permanently would be to have a bill passed by the Legislature similar to House Joint Resolution 4 which was launched earlier in 2013. It would authorize a referendum in 2014-NOV to allow the voters to amend Article 20 of the state constitution so that it clearly defined marriage as a union involving one woman and one man. Such an amendment to the state Constitution would reverse recent decisions by the state courts, the Attorney General, and county clerks. However, HJR 4 was rejected by a House committee earlier in 2013. Even if a similar resolution were passed by the Legislature, it could not amend the constitution until 2014-NOV. By that time, same-sex couples would have been routinely marrying in the state for over a year, and many voters would realize that marriage equality does not adversely affect marriage in the state, except to make it available to more people. Also, the margin between support and opposition to SSM in the state would have probably increased by a few more percentage points by the time of the referendum. It would probably be rejected by the voters.

However, religious conservatives and Republicans are solidly dedicated to preventing same-sex marriage. Many of them fear that God will cause some massive natural disasters like tornados, earthquakes, great landslides, horrendous wild fires, volcanoes, etc., if same-sex marriage is allowed to continue. There is no evidence of this having happened in any state or country that has attained marriage equality. However, the fear is still great.

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This topic continues in the next essay

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. Russell Contreras, "NM County Issues Same-Sex Marriage Licenses," Associated Press, 2013-AUG-21, at: http://abcnews.go.com/
  2. "Emergency Request for Marriage License Filed on Behalf of Same-Sex Couple Facing Life-Threatening Illness," Equality New Mexico, 2013-AUG-21, at: http://eqnm.org/
  3. "NM Same-Sex Couples Hold Impromptu Mass Wedding in Santa Fe," The Rainbow Times, 2013-AUG-24, at: http://www.therainbowtimesmass.com/

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Copyright © 2013 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2013-AUG-22
Latest update: 2013-AUG-26
Author: B.A. Robinson

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