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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, September 6 2013 - Volume 41 Issue 36
Republicans sue to block NM marriage equality - Eight counties now issue licenses to same-sex couples
Section One
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Republicans sue to block NM marriage equality - Eight counties now issue licenses to same-sex couples

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

Republican lawmakers in New Mexico filed suit on August 30 to block Dona Ana County from issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, but even as they did, the marriage situation in New Mexico seemed to spiral out of their control as yet another judge ordered yet another county to issue licenses to Gay and Lesbian couples.

New Mexico state law does not expressly permit or prohibit same-sex marriages, and Dona Ana County Clerk Lynn Ellins began handing out marriage licenses to same-sex couples two weeks ago, saying he believes 'equal protection should apply to everyone.'

The seven Republican state legislators who filed the August 30 suit were joined by eight others on September 3, seeking to prevent Ellins from issuing more licenses.

'It's really a separation-of-powers issue,' said Republican Rep. Paul Bandy, who joined the case on September 3. 'I don't think the county clerk has the power to make this decision.'

That issue, however, may be moot, as judges continue to order county clerks to issue licenses to Gay and Lesbian couples.

CASCADING VICTORIES
On September 3, as additional Republicans were joining the suit to block equality in Dona Ana County, Judge J.C. Robinson ordered Grant County to issue marriage licenses 'on a nondiscriminatory basis' to same-sex couples.

Grant County Clerk Robert Zamarripa said his office will comply with the judge's ruling and will begin providing the licenses starting September 9.

'We'll let the Legislature and courts decide after this what needs to be done,' Zamarripa said in a telephone interview with Reuters.

In a separate case, district judge Sheri Raphaelson ruled on September 3 that Los Alamos County Clerk Sharon Stover must issue a marriage license to a Lesbian couple.

Stover had initially refused to issue the couple a license on the grounds that they could not complete the legal application form, which asks for the names of the prospective 'husband' and 'wife.'

Stover's filing said the state legislature needed to amend the marriage license statute before same-sex licenses could be issued, but Judge Raphaelson disagreed, saying state law requires equal treatment for all couples.

Los Alamos will be the eighth New Mexico county to issue licenses to Gay and Lesbian couples.

DENIAL 'INTOLERABLE'
In Bernalillo County, which includes Albuquerque, a district court judge ruled last month that denying same-sex couples the right to marry violates the state constitution, which prohibits gender-based discrimination and guarantees the right to equal protection.

'Gay and Lesbian citizens of New Mexico have endured a long history of discrimination,' Judge Alan Malott ruled. 'Denial of the right to marry continues this unfortunate, intolerable pattern and establishes irreparable injury on plaintiffs' part.'

That ruling in late August came just days after a Santa Fe district judge ruled that the state constitution did not prohibit same-sex marriage, and ordered a clerk to either issue such licenses or appear in court to explain why she could not.

The New Mexico Supreme Court has so far declined to rule on lawsuits seeking the right for Gays and Lesbians to marry, but asked lower courts to handle them first.

New Mexico's attorney general has said that he would not step in to prevent Gay and Lesbian couples from marrying.

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