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Same-sex marriage (SSM) in New Mexico:

2013-AUG:
2nd county issues licenses to same-sex couples.
Golden Rule wins, in a conflict between
a photography business and a same-sex couple.

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This topic continues from the previous essay

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2013-AUG-22: State District Court issues ruling in Writ of Mandamus:

Alexander Hanna and Yon Hudson are a same-sex couple who wish to marry in New Mexico. They filed an Alternative Writ of Mandamus with the First Judicial District Court in Santa Fe county. They asked that the court order Geraldine Salazar, the Santa Fe County Clerk, to issue them a marriage license.

Judge Sarah Singleton issued a ruling stating that Salazar is:

"... commanded forthwith to:

  1. Comply with your mandatory, non discretionary duty to issue marriage licenses on an equitable, nondiscriminatory basis, without regard to sex or sexual orientation, as required by the Constitution and marriage statutes of the State of New Mexico; or

  2. Show cause before this Court at 3:30 p.m. on the 26th day of September, 2013, why you should not do so." 1

Santa Fe County Clerk Geraldine Salazar responded with a statement saying:

"Now that Judge Singleton has ordered me to issue a license to Messrs. Hanna and Hudson on constitutional grounds, I intend to do so and to issue a license to any same-sex couple who desires one and are otherwise qualified. By complying with the judge’s order, we will be issuing licenses legally and will not continue to use limited county resources on further litigation." 2

Santa Fe county started to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, starting at 2 PM on the same day as the ruling was issued.

Also on that same day, the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) wrote an article on their blog titled:

"New Mexico County Clerk Breaks Law; Issues Same-Sex Marriage Licenses." 3

They wrote:

"First Pennsylvania, now New Mexico. Another county clerk has taken it upon himself to completely ignore state law and issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples."

NOM's main goal is to prevent same-sex couples from marrying anywhere in the U.S. Their article refers to events in Dona Ana County. That would have been an excellent place for them to discuss the Writ issued by the District Court to the Santa Fe County. But, as of AUG-26, we cannot find that topic anywhere on their blog. It may have been an oversight by NOM, or an intentional decision to not report news items that contradict their belief that New Mexico laws and their constitution forbid same-sex marriage. There is no way to tell.

Similarly, we searched for an article about the writ on the Family Research Council (FRC) web site. FRC has been designated by the Southern Poverty Law Center as an active anti-gay hate group, 4 We found 117 articles that mentioned both "New Mexico" and "marriage" but none dealing with this decision by the District Court.

This is a momentous ruling by the court. It is the first time that a court in New Mexico has ruled that marriage is a legal right for loving, committed same-sex couples. Yet it was not considered worthy of even a small mention by either the National Organization for Marriage or the Family Research Council. If this is typical of the type of coverage given by these agencies, then a visitor to their web sites cannot expect to receive balanced coverage on any development related to sexual orientation or to sexual minorities.

At least six couples who had received the first Santa Fe County marriage licenses for same-sex couples quickly organized a mass gay wedding in the chambers of the county commission just minutes after receiving their licenses. They were married under a piece of artwork on the commission wall which states: "Protection of Property, Religion, Language."

photo of mass wedding
Mass wedding in Santa Fe County, NM

ProgressNow New Mexico (PNNM) wrote:

"The first couple to receive a license were Liz Stefanics, a Santa Fe county commissioner who recently introduced a resolution urging the court to support marriage equality, and her partner Linda Siegle, a longtime LGBT activist." 5

Pat Davis of PNNM said:

"After so many years of seeing these couples have their hopes raised, then dashed it is so rewarding to see progress finally coming. Elected leaders with political courage stepped forward to do the right thing and we will be forever grateful.  And no state could have done marriage equality better.  What could be cooler than a mass gay wedding in Santa Fe to celebrate marriage equality?” 5

Santa Ana county is located about halfway between Albuquerque and Las Vegas, NM in north central New Mexico. Dona Ana county surrounds Las Cruses, NM. in south central New Mexico. Everyone in New Mexico is probably within about a 5 hour drive of one of these two counties. However, the task of the LGBT community, civil rights advocates, and other progressives in New Mexico will not cease until marriage licenses are available in all counties. Their goal is absolute equality, even including the distance couples have to drive to obtain a license.

ProgressNowNM said:

"Now no LGBT couple in New Mexico is more than a short car ride away from the freedom to marry!" 6

And, yes, the Sun did rise in the East the next morning in spite of marriage equality having come to New Mexico.

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2013-AUG-22: A conflict between Elane Photography and a same-sex couple from Taos, NM.

In 2006, a lesbian approached Elane Photography asking that they photograph a commitment ceremony written by the woman and her partner. It is important to note that:

  • The ceremony was not a same-sex marriage. The state did not allow such marriages at the time.

  • The ceremony did not involve a civil union. The state did not allow such unions.

  • The ceremony was written by the couple themselves as a simple expression of their commitment to each other.

  • The ceremony had no significance in New Mexico law. Both before and after the ceremony, the state government would consider them to be "legal strangers" -- as simple roommates, and not recognize their relationship at all.

Elane Photography is a "public accommodation" in New Mexico. That means that they were in business to supply a service or product to the general public. That makes them subject to the human rights legislation of the state which requires public accommodations to treat all potential customers equally. Companies are not allowed to discriminate against customers on the basis of their race, skin color, religion, gender, national origin, sexual orientation, etc.

The owners of Elane Photography are evangelical Christians. Their faith group's interpretation of the Bible passages relating to same-gender sexual behavior condemns such activity. They presumably knew of the human rights legislation in New Mexico, but decided to refuse the contract to take photographs of the ceremony. They ended up in court.

The case went all the way to the New Mexico Supreme Court where the company lost. In 2013-NOV, the U.S. Supreme Court has been asked to accept the case.

But there is another factor which may be worth considering in this conflict that does not seem to have been actively covered in the media: does the Golden Rule have a bearing in this case?

The Golden Rule is one of the world's ethics of reciprocity. These are found in the Bible and in many other holy books. All of the major religions promote a version of the Golden Rule. It simply states that you should do onto others as you would expect to be treated yourself. So if the owner of a business is approached by someone asking for help, the owner should treat their potential customer as the owner would wish to be treated themselves in a similar situation.

Heritage.org, a conservative web site, titled their article on the ruling by the New Mexico Supreme Court:

"Same-Sex Marriage Trumps Religious Liberty in New Mexico." 7

Another, equally valid but more positive title could be:

"Golden Rule trumps the 'religious liberty to discriminate' against minorities."

Religious freedom and liberty used to mean the freedom to hold diverse religious beliefs, the freedom to assemble with fellow believers, the freedom to proselytize, etc. However, the definition of the term has been shifting in recent years to become the freedom to denigrate, discriminate against, and attack others on religious grounds. That is, the freedom to ignore the Golden Rule, to ignore the needs of others, and sometimes to actually harm others.

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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. "New Mexico Marriage Application and Judicial Order for Same-sex Marriage in Santa Fe," Scribd, at: http://www.scribd.com/
  2. "State of New Mexico First Judicial District Court ... Alternative Writ of Mandamus," 3013-AUG-22, at: http://www.scribd.com/
  3. "New Mexico County Clerk Breaks Law; Issues Same-Sex Marriage Licenses," National Organization for Marriage, 2013-AUG-22, at: http://www.nomblog.com/
  4. From the Winter 2010 issue of the Southern Poverty Law Center's (SPLC) Intelligence Report. The SPLC monitors racist, anti-gay, nativist, and other hate groups in the U.S.
  5. "State of New Mexico First Judicial District Court ... Alternative Writ of Mandamus," 3013-AUG-22, at: http://www.scribd.com/
  6. "NM Same-Sex Couples Hold Impromptu Mass Wedding in Santa Fe," The Rainbow Times, 2013-AUG-24, at: http://www.therainbowtimesmass.com/
  7. Jacob Gershman, "Photographers Discriminated Against Gay Couple, Court Rules," Wall Street Journal, 2013-AUG-25, at: http://blogs.wsj.com/

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Copyright © 2013 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2013-AUG-23
Latest update: 2013-DEC-03
Author: B.A. Robinson

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