More couples getting NM same-sex marriage licenses
By JUAN CARLOS LLORCA and BARRY MASSEY Associated Press
LAS CRUCES, N.M. (AP) - Gay and lesbian couples
flocked to southern New Mexico for a second day Thursday to take
advantage of a surprise decision to issue same-sex marriage licenses.
And most were tying the knot on the spot, making sure they got their
long-awaited marriage certificates before any courts or state officials
"We wanted a piece of paper that said, 'Yes, the 20 years have not been in vain,'" said Thom Hinks of Albuquerque.
Hinks said he and his partner, Richard Sunman,
spent much of their three-hour drive discussing whether to get married
immediately in Las Cruces on Thursday or use the license to have a
better-planned ceremony somewhere else in the state.
They said they decided to do it right away,
remembering that licenses issued by the Sandoval County clerk in 2004
were later invalidated.
"All it would take is for a judge to issue an edict and strike it down," said Hinks.
A legal challenge is expected. Republican Sen.
William Sharer of Farmington said a lawsuit will be filed, potentially
by the end of the week, seeking a court order to stop the clerk.
"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
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
Neither Republican Gov. Susana Martinez nor
Democratic Attorney General Gary King, who plans to run for her seat
next year, indicated they planned to do anything to try to halt the
practice as cases testing the legality of same-sex marriage work their
way through the state Supreme Court.
The gay marriage issues pose political risks for
candidates in New Mexico, which leans Democratic in statewide voting but
has many moderate to conservative Democrats in rural areas.
"Issues like immigration, abortion and gay
marriage, those are issues that sometimes statewide candidates want to
keep away from. Just the fact that both Gary King and the governor
haven't exactly come out gangbusters on this issue demonstrates that
they recognize it's a double-edge sword that plays both ways," said
Brian Sanderoff, an Albuquerque pollster.
Martinez has said she personally opposes same-sex
marriage but believes that voters should decide whether to legalize gay
marriage through a constitutional amendment. King's office has said that
state law prohibits same-sex marriage but those restrictions are
Pat Davis of ProgressNow New Mexico, a liberal
advocacy group, said gay marriage may not become a big political issue
if it's resolved by the state Supreme Court well before next year's
Otherwise, the Democratic-controlled Legislature
will face pressure to approve a constitutional amendment, which would
put the issue on the November ballot and make it a high-profile topic
"And then I think all bets are off," Davis said "I think it does become an issue no matter what."
Meanwhile, the state Supreme Court issued a ruling
Thursday that strengthened anti-discrimination protections for gays. The
court said a commercial photography business violated a state law in
refusing to take pictures of a lesbian couple's commitment ceremony. The
court rejected arguments that the state's Human Rights Act violated the
business owner's religious beliefs against same-sex marriage.
Lynn Ellins began issuing same-sex marriage
licenses Wednesday after he said his review of state law allowed him to
do so. By Thursday afternoon, more than 70 licenses had been issued.
Most of the couples were from New Mexico, Ellins said. But a few crossed state lines.
Monica Corral and Luz Saenz said they came from nearby El Paso, even though their marriage won't be legal in Texas.
They said they just wanted to make the lifelong
commitment, and "hopefully I will live long enough to see it happen in
Texas," said Saenz.
County and city officials around the country have
taken it upon themselves in recent years to issue same-sex licenses,
with one of the first and most highly publicized cases in San Francisco
in 2004. The city issued the licenses for about a month before being
ordered by courts to stop. The marriages were eventually invalidated.
But gay marriage is now legal in that state.
Dona Ana County became the first county in New
Mexico to actively issue same-sex licenses since a Sandoval County clerk
issued 64 licenses to same-sex couples in 2004. Then-Attorney General
Patricia Madrid soon declared the licenses were invalid and a court
later ordered the clerk to stop.
Associated Press writer Barry Massey reported from Santa Fe, N.M.
Copyright 2013 The
Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be
published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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