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Posts for August, 2013

New Mexico counties grow to three

Timothy Kincaid

August 26th, 2013

The number of New Mexico counties offering marriage equality has grown to three. (Star Tribune)

An Albuquerque judge on Monday ordered the clerk of New Mexico’s most populous county to join two other counties in the state in issuing marriage licenses for gay and lesbian couples.

State District Judge Alan Malott ruled that New Mexico’s constitution prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.

(The ruling covered both Santa Fe County and Bernalillo County, home of Albuquerque. However Santa Fe has been complying with a separate judicial ruling requiring equality since Friday).

Predictably, Sen. Bill Sharer, who is leading a group of GOP lawmakers to fight the issuance of marriage licenses to same-sex couples, was furious. (koat)

“It is up the New Mexico State Legislature, with the consent of the Governor of New Mexico, to make laws and for county clerks and district court judges to abide by them. They do not make the laws. 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,” Sharer said in a statement.

But there’s more than a little irony in Sharer’s statement. Despite what he pretends, the New Mexico State Legislature has no law requiring that clerks discriminate against same-sex couples. There is no “new definition”. The marriage law in New Mexico is not defined to require a man and a woman.

It is true that until fairly recently no one in New Mexico fathomed same-sex couples marrying. But what do you do when an unexpected situation seeks to avail itself of civil law?

Sharer seems to hold an opinion about the role of government that flies in the face of his party’s rhetoric. While most Republicans would claim to believe that freedom is held by the people and that if ‘there ain’t no law against it’ then citizens are free to pursue happiness as they wish. Sharer, on the other hand, seems to believe that the government holds all rights and doles out freedoms according to its whim. He seems to be claiming that unless he and his fellow legislators specifically say you can do something, then it’s against the law.

UPDATE: Doña Ana, Sante Fe, and Bernalillo Counties are the states three most populated. Between them, nearly half of the state’s residents live in a county in which equality is being honored.

NM GOP Lawmakers Announce Lawsuit To Stop Marriages

Jim Burroway

August 23rd, 2013

When Doña Ana County, New Mexico, Clerk Lynn Ellins began issuing licenses to same-sex couples in Las Cruces on Wednesday, the state’s Attorney General Gary King responded by saying that he would not intervene to halt the Doña Ana County marriages. But a group of Republican lawmakers have now vowed to pursue a legal challenge. Sen. William Sharer (R-Farmington) announced that he would file a lawsuit by the end of the week:

“It has to do with a county clerk cannot make law. That is the Legislature’s job,” said Sharer, who sponsored a constitutional amendment in 2011 to define marriage as between a man and woman.

He said more than two dozen GOP lawmakers have agreed to join the lawsuit. It likely will be filed with the state Supreme Court, but Sharer said lawyers were trying to decide the best legal strategy.

New Mexico AG Won’t Intervene In Doña Ana County Marriages

Jim Burroway

August 22nd, 2013

As of the close of business yesterday, Doña Ana County Clerk Lynn Ellins issued 42 marriage licenses to same-sex couples after announcing that he would begin issuing licenses yesterday morning. State Attorney General Gary King, who had urged county clerks to wait until the courts rule on whether New Mexico’s prohibition of same-sex marriage is unconstitutional, says that he will not file legal action to stop the issuing of marriage licenses in Las Cruces:

King has said he believes the state Supreme Court would rule state laws limiting marriage to opposite-sex couples are unconstitutional. Established marriage laws, King said, violate a provision in the New Mexico Constitution that promises equal protection in law, regardless of gender.

…“We feel like our position that the laws aren’t constitutional presents a barrier from us bringing action in that suit,” King said.

“… Here’s a case where we have an obligation to defend the laws of the state of New Mexico to the extent that they’re not unconstitutional, but I have a higher obligation to defend the Constitution,” he said.

Gov. Susana Martinez (R), who opposes marriage equality, has repeated her call for a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage be put before the voters.

Meanwhile, couples in Las Cruces are celebrating:

Orlando-Antonio Jimenez, 42, of La Mesa said he was watching TV news and learned about Ellins’ decision. He and his partner, K. Grey Carrillo, 46, were soon at the county government center, applying for their license to marry. Jimenez called it a “natural progression to our 13 years together.”

“This is a great day for the state of New Mexico,” he said. “We have a family that now is recognized by the state of New Mexico.”

Added Carrillo: “It’s a great day for equality all the way around.”

Jimenez and Carrillo said they have plans for a large wedding. It likely will happen between three and six months from now, they said.

Las Cruces, New Mexico, Begins Issuing Same-Sex Marriage Licenses

Jim Burroway

August 21st, 2013

Doña Ana County Clerk Lynn Ellins has been mulling the move since June, when New Mexico Attorney General Gary King issued an opinion saying that the state’s practice of banning same-sex marraige was likely unconstitutional, particularly since the wording of the law itself is gender neutral. At the time, King advised County Clerks to continue to deny marriage licenses to same-sex couples until the courts could weigh in on the issue. He then refused to defend the law before the state Supreme Court, which last Friday sent the matter down to local courts to review. That’s when Ellins decided to act:

“That means it could be many months or years before the matter is resolved,” Ellins said. “In the meantime, I am mindful that I took an oath of office to uphold the Constitution of the State of New Mexico as Doña Ana County Clerk. I am an attorney, and I have read the AG’s opinion, and I find it to be sound. After careful review of New Mexico’s laws it is clear that the state’s marriage statutes are gender neutral and do not expressly prohibit Doña Ana County from issuing marriage licenses to same-gender couples. Any further denial of marriage licenses to these couples violates the United States and New Mexico Constitution and the New Mexico Human Rights Act. Doña Ana County is upholding New Mexico law by issuing these marriage licenses, and I see no reason to make committed couples in Doña Ana County wait another minute to marry.”