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Same-sex marriage (SSM) in New Mexico:

Marriage equality comes to Bernalillo county
Republican lawmakers try to stem tide towards
marriage equality.

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Discussion of his item is continued from the previous essay

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2013-AUG-23: Two United Church ministers came as witnesses; ended up marrying dozens of couples:

From the United Church of Christ's web site:

"United Church of Christ ministers the Rev. Talitha Arnold and the Rev. Brandon Johnson went to the county building in Santa Fe, NM, to stand as witnesses for same-sex couples who rushed to obtain marriage licenses â€" but ended up officiating at more than two dozen weddings as well. On Friday, August 23, Santa Fe County became one of six counties in New Mexico that began issuing the certificates to all couples regardless of gender, now recognizing same-sex marriages because there isn’t a law on the books permitting or restricting marriage equality.

By day's end Arnold and Johnson, of the United Church of Santa Fe, who were present in a show of support, married about 30 couples on that Friday afternoon.

'We both went to the courthouse to be present, to be supportive,' Arnold said. '[A few hours later] we both got calls and were asked to come back, because people wanted to get married right there, and no judge was available. Some of these couples have been together for 30 to 35 years.' ..."

"In the days since Aug. 23, Arnold and Johnson have been asked by other same-sex couples to officiate at their weddings, and they've agreed each time because it is 'an outreach ministry of the church,' Arnold said. The congregation was the first in the Southwest Conference of the UCC to become an Open and Affirming Congregation, back in 1994. '[United Church] has been on the forefront of LGBT rights here for over 20 years,' she added. 'We've testified to the state legislature on marriage equality â€" at first for basic human rights â€" and over time those barriers have fallen'." 8

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2013-AUG-24: Columnist Steve Terrell comments on issuing of licenses:

In his Roundhouse Roundup in the Santa Fe New Mexican newspaper, Terrell commented:

"There’s no doubt that attitudes toward gay marriage have shifted rapidly in recent years. That shift was on display last week once again in New Mexico with the story of the defiant DoĂ~+mn~a Ana County Clerk who began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

As most news organizations noted, a similar thing happened nine years ago in February 2004, when Sandoval County Clerk Victoria Dunlap â€" a Republican â€" began issuing marriage licenses to gay couples. Before the state put a halt to it, 66 same-sex couples, including nine from Santa Fe, had a license to wed. ..."

"As has been the case with other recent advancements of marriage equality, there was no opposing statement coming from the state Republican Party â€" although some GOP legislators were talking about filing a court action to try to stop the licensed [sic] being issued. In fact, public opposition to Ellins’ action has been relatively muted, the rhetoric low-key. The Catholic bishops sent out a statement against it. Republican Gov. Susana Martinez released a statement reiterating her belief that marriage was for one man and one woman and that voters should decide the issue." 7

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2013-AUG-26: District Court Judge for Bernalillo County orders county clerk to distribute marriage licenses to same-sex couples:

On AUG-21, the American Civil Liberties Association of New Mexico and the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) had filed an emergency request with the New Mexico Second Judicial District Court asking for permission for a same-sex couple to marry. The couple are Jen Roper and Angelique Neuman from Pojoaque, NM. Jen Roper is terminally ill with brain cancer. Aside from the usual reasons why couples want to marry, Angelique and their three children would benefit significantly from the financial security offered by state and federal governments to couples who are married.

The couple obtained a marriage license and were married on AUG-23 in a hospital in Santa Fe. The plaintiffs asked that the judge order the State of New Mexico to acknowledge their married on Jen's death certificate. The hearing was short, as neither Santa Fe County, Bernalillo County or the state raised any objections.

However, there was one person at the hearing who objected to SSM. Christine Butler of Albuquerque is opposed to gay marriage. She said that the judge's decision violates her human rights because it forces her to live in a state which has achieved marriage equality. She said:

"I don't want to bring my children or go to places and see same-sex couples showing a lot of affection. ... That's against God's law." 1

It is unclear whether loving, committed married same-sex couples in New Mexico will exhibit more affection in public compared to unmarried same-sex couples. Her concern is probably very similar to many people in 1967 after the U.S. Supreme Court legalized interracial marriage in the 16 states that had prohibited such marriages. That decision is in the ironically named case Loving v. Virginia.

But now, almost two generations later, people have been become accustomed to seeing interracial married couples holding hands, etc. in pubic.

Although he was only expected to rule on this one marriage, Judge Alan M. Malott issued a decision that was much broader than anticipated. He ruled not only on the Roper/Neuman marriage but on the marriages of five other couples whose lawsuit was merged with the Roper/Newman case. In addition, he ruled specifically that the state Constitution prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.

According to Atlantic Wire, which posted Judge Malott's rulings on their web site:

"... Judge Malott found nothing in current state law that bans same-sex marriages in the state. Instead, Malott cited the state's equal protection and anti-discrimination laws as an indication to the contrary, that New Mexico law prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. He ruled:

"Plaintiffs are same sex couples who have shared lengthy committed relationships. Having made these deep personal and social committments, they wish to enter into the state-sanctioned contract of marriage. ..."

"A specific prohibition of same-sex marriage does not exist in ... [New Mexico's statutes] although the statutory scheme does specifically prohibit marrige between minors without consent of their parents or court order, incestuous marriage, and marriage between those lacking contractual capacity."

"Article II, Section 18, Constitution of New Mexico provides ... 'Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied on account of the sex of any person'. (emphasis added)". ... the Defendant's clear, non-discretionary duty to issue a license to 'each couple' otherwise qualified stands clearly and inexorably through all the retoric. ..."

"Whether based in statute, or Constitutional protections, Defendants have a non-discretionary duty to issue a Marriage License to 'each couple' otherwise qualified upon application for same, and no valid excuse for not performing that duty has been asserted."

"Gay and lesbian citizens of New Mexico have endured a long history of discrimination. ... Denial of the right to marry continues this unfortunate, intolerable pattern and and establishes irreparable injury on Plaintiffs' part." 2

The pro-equality group Why Marriage Matters NM said:

"We are so happy for the plaintiffs in the ACLU-NM case and all of the same-sex relationships that will begin to receive the respect that they deserve!" 3

Judge Malott ordered Bernalillo county to start distributing marriage licenses to any same-sex couples who want to marry and who meet the requirement of the marriage act without limitation because of their gender. This is the third New Mexico county so far in August to allow same-sex marriage. The order involves only Bernalillo County, which is the most populous county in the state.

Christopher Stoll, a senior staff attorney at the National Center for Lesbian Rights, commented:

"These licenses are issued pursuant to a court order and are based on solid legal reasoning. To our knowledge, no appellate court has ever invalidated a marriage license issued pursuant to a court order, and we do not think the New Mexico appellate courts will do so either. This is a new day, in which both courts and public officials of all kinds are recognizing that the law requires that same-sex couples have equal access to marriage. That is particularly evident in New Mexico, where there is no statutory or constitutional ban on marriage for same-sex couples, and where the principle of equal protection of same-sex couples is already so deeply rooted in state law." 4

Stoll also said that it was unclear whether any party would appeal Judge Malott's decision to the state Court of Appeals. There are some conservative Christian organizations that might like to launch an appeal, but it is not clear if they have standing. Mere distaste for same-sex marriage and a desire to preserve marriage inequality is unlikely to represent sufficiently serious personal harm to warrant standing.

USA Today reported:

"Laura Schauer Ives, a lawyer for the American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico, called it "monumental" and said the group didn't expect such a broad decision by Malott. The judge had been asked only to order that the state recognize, on her death certificate, a dying woman's marriage Friday in Santa Fe to her longtime partner. ... We were stunned and amazed." 5

The Bernalillo County clerk made preparations to start issuing licenses on Tuesday, AUG-27.

The Associated Press said:

"Helen Taylor, 45 and Apryl Harris, 47, of Rio Rancho, didn’t want to wait until the battle was played out in state courts.

The emotional couple was among the first to receive marriage licenses in Bernalillo County Tuesday [AUG-27]. They had originally planned to get married in New York in February.

'It was better to do it here,' Harris said. 'This is our home'." 6

Meanwhile, from AUG-24 to 26, the county clerk's office in Santa Fe County had issued 157 marriage licenses to same-sex couples. From AUG-21 to 25, the Dona Ana County clerk's office had sold 137 licenses to same-sex couples. 1

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2013-AUG-27: Republican legislators attempt to stop the issuance of marriage licenses to same-sex couples:

Senator William Sharer (R) said that it is the responsibility of the Legislature and Governor to make laws, not county clerks or judges in state District Courts. He said:

"It is inexplicable how a district court just today discovered a new definition of marriage in our laws, when our marriage law has not been changed in over a century." 1

Senator Sharer may be unaware that although it is the role of the Legislature to pass bills and the Governor to sign them into law, it is up to the state and federal court system to determine whether those laws are constitutional. Judge Alan Malott did not discover "a new definition of marriage." He was asked to interpret whether the tradition in New Mexico of not allowing same-sex couples to marry is constitutional.

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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. "Judge orders New Mexico county to issue same-sex marriage licenses," Associated Press, 1013-AUG-27, at:
  2. Abby Ohlheiser, "New Mexico's Largest County Will Begin Issuing Same-Sex Marriage Licenses," Atlantic Wire, 2013-AUG-26, at:
  3. Ben Johnson, " 'A lawless state': Gay marriage comes to some New Mexico counties by judicial fiat," LifeSiteNews,com. 2013-AUG-26, at:
  4. Chris Geidner, "New Mexico Judge Orders Marriage Licenses For Same-Sex Couples," BuzzFeed, 2013-AUG-26, at: [Contains the text of the court ruling]
  5. "New Mexico county legalizes same-sex marriage," Associated Press, 2013-AUG-26, at:
  6. "Same-sex marriage in New Mexico," Associated Press, 2013-AUG-27, at:
  7. Steve Terrell, "What a difference nine years makes," Santa Fe New Mexican, 2013-AUG-24, at:
  8. Anthony Moujaes, "New Mexico ministers part of memorable day for marriage equality," United Church of Christ, 2013-SEP-05, at:

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Copyright © 2013 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2013-AUG-25
Latest update: 2013-
Author: B.A. Robinson

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