New Mexico is 58.5% liberated (aka gays can wed)

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.

gay peace shutterstock

Rainbow finger via Shutterstock

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

Marriage counties:

  • 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?

NM Senator Sharer and friend. You decide which is which.

NM Senator Sharer and friend. You decide which is which.

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.


Published professional writer and poet, Becca had a three decade career in technical writing and consulting before selling off most of her possessions in 2006 to go live at an ashram in India for 3 years. She loves literature (especially science fiction), technology and science, progressive politics, cool electronic gadgets, and perfecting Hatch green chile recipes. Fortunately for this last, Becca and her wife currently live in New Mexico. @BeccaMorn

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  • rod

    This is, indeed, good news. I just married my partner of 25 years in August. We had moved to California in 2010 and when the prop 13 was struck down, we made our move. My hope is more people can have the opportunity denied by most states in the country. Times are changing for the better.

  • pappyvet

    The mayor of Minneapolis is courting gay couples in Chicago to get married there and a new wave of recognition and acceptance seems to be grinding it’s way toward the altar of freedom in our country. But lets never forget that hatred is a powerful narcotic and we have not I fear heard the last from the pushers.

  • AHoltzer38

    Becca’s theory in comments about how this great unexpected progress came to evolve at this place and time is excellent. I think she is absolutely correct to be attributing a good deal of this to the US Supreme Court’s action on overturning parts of DOMA. At the time, I was very disappointed in their “half-baked” decision, but have been watching in delightful astonishment how much real positive impact on equality their decision is actually having. Hooray. One other suggestion, on a deep indigenous level, New Mexico has always had a unique culturally-inspired way of living and doing. I’m delighted to see it being expressed in this wonderful positive way that says much positive about the Land of Enchantment.

  • 2patricius2

    Thanks for the info. Makes sense.

  • http://www.rebeccamorn.com/mind BeccaM

    I was honestly expecting a repeat of 2004, with swift court action shutting down Doña Ana county, just as Sandoval was nearly a decade ago, and the courts standing firm from district to the Supes that nothing would be decided until all the litigation worked its laborious way up the judicial food chain.

    I believe several factors led to the fracturing:
    - General shift to the point where a majority of New Mexicans are in favor of marriage equality (a small majority, but it’s there now).
    - The DOMA section 3 overturn by SCOTUS.
    - A sense of impatience, because the original argument in 2004 was that Sandoval needed to stop so the courts and the legislature could come up with a permanent solution. Back then, they were talking domestic partnerships, but the GOPers and conservative religious types kept blocking it. So here we are in 2013 and nothing has happened.
    - Steady Democratic gains in statewide offices from 2008 onward. We were somewhat ‘purple’ and still are in many areas, but the population gains have all been in Dem stronghold regions.

  • http://www.rebeccamorn.com/mind BeccaM

    I would suppose there’s a possible suit waiting to be filed should somebody order a marriage license certificate and get one that indicates ‘wife’ and ‘husband’.

  • Monoceros Forth

    I bet Stover thought she was being really witty and clever with this, too. It’s redolent of the sneer, “Oh, so two guys want to marry? Who gets to be mommy?”

  • Thom Allen

    Cool. I was hoping that Stover wouldn’t be able to get an injunction. Of course she’s pissed. Los Alamos will blow up now that teh gays can marry.

    I wonder if this someone couldn’t get her sweating legally over her stance. Forcing a biological male to lie about his sex on a legal document. The same holding true for having a biological female lie, as well. Bet Stover would start really sweating and not from the heat.

  • 2patricius2

    What I have found fascinating about New Mexico, is how different the process has been from what we have seen in other states. In other states there have been state-wide votes, or legislative votes or court decisions. Here we have a state where there are county by county decisions. Something surprising to see. States really do have their unique way of doing things. Hopefully all these decisions will stand when/if a case gets to the state supreme court.

  • http://www.rebeccamorn.com/mind BeccaM

    Aye, it was a nasty thing to do, and probably the only thing Stover’s attorneys said she could get away with else risk contempt-of-court charges. “I can’t stop them from marrying, fine, I’ll make it so they don’t WANT to get married in MY county.”

    I know I wouldn’t. Fortunately, the Santa Fe county courthouse is only maybe 15-20 minutes away.

    There was someone the other day who said they thought Los Alamos would be early among the counties volunteering, sans court order, to go ahead with the marriages. I disagreed at the time for exactly the reasons you’ve seen here: It’s a strongly conservative GOP stronghold, very small geographically, but with a relatively dense (pun semi-intended) and affluent population. In fact, they’re just about the only non-rural county in NM swinging that hard to the conservative right.

    Plus they clearly elect openly homophobic GOPers to public office.

  • Rob Dowdy

    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.

    What a nasty piece of work this one is.

    In her defense, it probably isn’t fun to be a minor functionary drunk on your own delusions of righteousness and power, only to have someone with actual power come along and very publicly set you straight.

    We can take perverse comfort in the fact that pettiness and spite seem to be all they have left at this point.

    I don’t remember when it was exactly, but back home in Florida within the last ten years or so, the clerk of the county I grew up in resigned in protest of being forced to issue an interracial marriage license. In the 21st century. Disgusting, right?

    My mom told me about it at the time and said he had a lot of sympathy around town regarding the state’s interference in “county business.” His rationale for not issuing the license was that same old bromide they always trot out: “Won’t anyone think of the children?”

    That’s right, he said he couldn’t condone a union that would produce mixed-race children because people (like him) would be mean to them and refuse to “accept” them.

    Perhaps this lovely specimen should follow his example and get the hell out of the way of progress, since she is obviously incapable of being part of it.

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