BernCo Clerk: Our Hands Are Tied

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Photo Credit: Fibonacci Blue via Compfight cc

By Marisa Demarco
— Santa Fe’s city attorney says same-sex marriage is legal in New Mexico.

Geno Zamora wrote an opinion to be presented to Santa Fe’s City Council. This morning, Santa Fe Mayor David Coss and Councilor Patti Bushee held a press conference to announce they will be proposing a resolution in support of gay marriage on Wednesday, March 27. Coss and Bushee encourage the state’s county clerks to begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

Zamora argues:

• New Mexico marriage law does not specify gender.
• Same-sex marriage licenses from other states are honored in New Mexico.
• Banning same-sex marriage is gender discrimination, and equal treatment is required by the state’s Constitution.

The first point prompted Sandoval County Clerk Victoria Dunlap to issue licenses to gay and lesbian couples in 2004. The line of thrilled couples stretched down the hall that day, and rapid marriage ceremonies were held in the courtyard just outside the office. A total of 66 licenses were issued on Feb. 20, 2004. Then Attorney General Patricia Madrid put a stop to the festivities.

Ever since, bills legalizing domestic partnerships and gay marriage have drawn controversy and then died in the Roundhouse. Measures defining marriage as between one man and one woman have met similar ends.

Bernalillo County Clerk Maggie Toulouse Oliver says because of Madrid’s 2004 opinion, county clerks’ hands are tied. Madrid pointed out that state law demands the forms include a male applicant and a female applicant. “That’s the last legal guidance we received on the issue from the state,” Toulouse Oliver says.

The statutes conflict, she adds, which is why there’s a difference of legal opinion on the matter. The courts could step in and resolve the issue, or the Legislature could sort it out once and for all. In the meantime, the Bernalillo County Clerk will not be issuing same-sex marriage licenses, she confirms.

Still, Zamora’s analysis of the law is accurate, Toulouse Oliver says. She is in favor of gay marriage, she adds. And she’s not alone: A new poll indicates 58 percent of Americans support equal marriage rights. Every year, protesters come into the Bernalillo County Clerk’s Office and apply for licenses on Valentine’s Day. “Unfortunately we haven’t been able to issue them,” Toulouse Oliver says.

Nine states and the District of Columbia have legalized gay marriage. They include: Connecticut, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Vermont and Washington.

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  • Maurizio DiMauro

    For now, in NM, divorce remains the cherished privilege of heterosexuals, alas…Yes, one pretty good way to kill a relationship is to institutionalize it, to force one to blithely promise the impossible to another, to pretend that love can be caged, that out of the force of law, expectation and sheer financial and other obligations, amorous bonds actually GROW-like the inexorable honeymoon penis. Sure it happens, but it’s not the rule-the good marriage, that is. Add to that the current difficult socio-economic pressures that further complicate and obligate one spouse to and upon another, and the Good Marriage becomes almost mythical. I’m all for equality (and yes, yes I support gay marriage in practice) but perhaps we should be careful what we wish for specifically. Maybe the best solution is equal marriage abolition.