For those just arriving, back on August 21, Doña Ana’s county clerk decided he was done waiting for the New Mexico state legislature and the courts to get around to dealing with New Mexico’s uniquely ambiguous gay marriage laws. A fairly plain reading of the state constitution and existing legislation would seem to indicate the state’s de facto ban on same sex marriage recognition is unconstitutional and unlawful.
So he began issuing marriage licenses.
Since that time, six more counties joined in. Some voluntarily, such as Valencia and San Miguel. Other counties were ordered by their respective District Courts, including Santa Fe, Taos, and Bernalillo, and in all those cases, the county clerks simply said “okie-dokey” and began issuing marriage licenses immediately.
In the meantime, GOP legislators threatened lawsuits to try to stop them, one Republican county clerk decided to try to resist a court order, and county clerks all over the state — both pro- and anti-gay marriage — have petitioned the state supreme court to please weigh in and issue some kind of ruling, definitively, one way or the other. In the meantime, NM State Attorney General Gary King has said he believes all these gay and lesbian marriages happening right now are perfectly legal and valid, unless the courts say otherwise. And he also thinks the ban is unconstitutional.
Here are the latest developments in the seemingly inexorable tsunami of (gay) marriage equality advances for New Mexicans:
Grant County is the most recent county to be ordered by a district judge’s ruling to issue marriage licenses to gay and lesbian couples. County Clerk Robert Zamarripa said his office will comply with Judge J.C. Robinson’s ruling (issued Tuesday) and will begin offering the licenses next week.
Los Alamos County Clerk, Sharon Stover (R-NoSurprise), decided to try to resist the original court order handed down last week, appearing today in court to explain why she hadn’t complied.
District Judge Sheri Raphaelson wasn’t having any of it, denying both the challenge and Stover’s subsequent request for a statewide injunction to stop the marriages until the matter is dealt with by the state legislature or the state supreme court.
In a totally douche-y move, Stover has said she will comply, but refuses to order new gender-neutral marriage license forms until the state legislature changes the law governing them. Gay and lesbian couples will have to decide which of them is the male and which is female for the purpose of applying. I’d hazard to guess this will also affect any official marriage certificates coming from the Los Alamos County Clerk’s office.
I’d recommend Los Alamos gay and lesbian couples consider heading east to Santa Fe to marry, rather than deal with this deliberate and rather petty anti-gay rudeness.
A large (and growing) majority of New Mexicans now live in marriage equality counties
The numbers (data from Census.gov, and a hat-tip to our host, John, for finding and crunching it for me):
Total population of New Mexico: 2,085,538
- Bernalillo Co.: 673,460
- Santa Fe Co.: 146,375
- Doña Ana Co.: 214,445
- San Miguel Co.: 28,891
- Valencia Co.: 76,631
- Taos Co.: 32,779
- Grant Co.: 29,388
- Los Alamos Co.: 18,159
Total living in marriage equality counties: 1,220,128. Which means New Mexico is 58.5% liberated.
Sandoval County still dragging its feet
In a sadly ironic note, that one county, Sandoval, which led the way in 2004 in bureaucratic civil disobedience when they began issuing marriage licenses to gay and lesbian couples — resulting in several dozen gay marriages that remain legal today — still has not followed suit with Doña Ana and the other counties. Although lawsuits have been filed, there are as yet no hearings scheduled.
They remain the last of the high-population counties which haven’t joined in. If they did, their 135,588 residents would bring the total to 1,355,716, or 65%.
And now, your moment of Schadenfreude
Remember State Senator Bill Sharer (R-Homophobe)? Our buddy, professional snake-wrangler, amateur legislator, and the guy who tried to “in” Aristotle and Alexander the Great?
Early on, when Doña Ana county first began issuing marriage licenses, he announced with great fanfare that he had “nearly 30 GOP legislators” with him, and planned to file a legal challenge to stop Doña Ana county from issuing any more same sex marriage licenses. He further asserted the challenge would be filed very soon, possibly within 48-72 hours.
Well, nine days and five counties later — and just before the Labor Day holiday weekend — they finally filed their challenge.
Surely after that much time, they must’ve come up with a head-exploding legal strategy to stop the marriages statewide, right?
Nope. It turned out to be just against the Doña Ana county clerk alone. And it wasn’t “nearly 30 GOP legislators”, but a mere seven.