As Couples Gather At Civic Plaza, Two More Counties Issue Same Sex Marriage Licenses
UPDATE 8/27 12p: Two more New Mexico counties say they'll begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
The clerks in San Miguel and Valencia counties say they've ordered gender-neutral forms so they can follow the state's three population centers in recognizing gay and lesbian marriages.
The decisions come a day after a state district judge in Albuquerque declared gay marriage legal, and ordered the Bernalillo County clerk to join Santa Fe and Dona Ana counties in issuing the licenses.
More than 100 people were lined up for the licenses in Albuquerque Tuesday morning, and a mass wedding was planned at noon at Civic Plaza.
UPDATE 8/26 6p: Same sex marriage was ruled legal by a second judge in New Mexico Monday. The ruling is the second in just a matter of days to clarify the state's marriage laws which neither prohibit nor allow same sex marriage.
State District Court Judge Alan Malott asked the courtroom to remain silent as he read his decision. He ordered the defendants, the clerks of both Bernalillo and Santa Fe counties "to issue a marriage license upon application from each couple otherwise qualified without regard to the couple's sexual orientation or the gender."
Last week, a district court judge in Santa Fe issued a similar ruling just days after the Dona Ana county clerk decided on his own to issue marriage licenses to same sex couples.
UPDATE 8/26: The clerk for New Mexico's most populous county has a supply of new forms ready in case a court orders her to issue licenses for same-sex marriages.
Bernalillo County Clerk Maggie Toulouse Oliver says she's had 1,000 licenses printed because she wants to be prepared if there is a court ruling.
A judge in Albuquerque has scheduled a hearing Monday afternoon on the same-sex marriage issue.
That hearing comes after the Dona Ana County clerk began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples last Wednesday.
The Santa Fe County Clerk began issuing same sex marriage licenses Friday afternoon after receiving an order from a state District Judge. The ruling is the first in New Mexico to find that same sex marriage is legal under state law.
Brian Egolf is one of the lawyers representing two men who were denied a marriage license by the Santa Fe County Clerk. He says the District Court's order was based on the state's Equal Rights Amendment which prohibits discrimination based on sex. "Our state constitution gives much more protection than the federal constitution," Egolf explained. "New Mexico today became a little bit freer and a little bit more equal."
New Mexico's marriage laws don't explicitly prohibit or allow same sex marriage, so this is the first time a judge has clarified the vagueness of the law. The decision comes two days after the Dona Ana County Clerk decided on his own to issue same sex marriage licenses.