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Fri December 20, 2013
Clerk Quits Over Marriage Equality Ruling; Opponents Continue Fight
Officials say a rural eastern New Mexico county clerk and her deputy have resigned rather than abide by a state Supreme Court ruling legalizing marriage equality.
Roosevelt County manager Charlene Webb says Clerk Donna Carpenter and Deputy Clerk Janet Collins announced their resignations Friday morning.
Webb declined to say why they quit. But county commissioners confirmed it was in protest of Thursday's Supreme Court ruling that says it's unconstitutional to bar same-sex couples from getting marriage licenses.
Commissioner Bill Cathey says the two had made it clear they would quit "rather than be associated with that."
Webb says the clerk's office is closed until the commission meets Monday to hire a replacement.
Carpenter doesn't have a current phone listing, and there was no answer Friday at a listing for Collins.
Marriage equality opponents are vowing the fight is not over despite a New Mexico Supreme Court decision Thursday saying it was unconstitutional to bar same-sex couples from getting marriage licenses.
"If they are saying it is unconstitutional, we need to make it constitutional," said state Sen. William Sharer, a Farmington Republican.
Sharer said he will ask the Legislature in January to put to voters a constitutional amendment that would ban marriage equality.
And groups like the Flora Vista-based Voices for Family Values say their members already are gathering signatures for petitions to present to lawmakers in support of such a move.
The ruling Thursday came after county officials asked the high court to clarify the law and establish a uniform state policy on marriage. Historically, county clerks in New Mexico have denied marriage licenses to same-sex couples because state statutes include a marriage license application with sections for male and female applicants.
However, the state's more populous counties this fall began issuing licenses on their own and in response to lower court rulings.
The state's more rural counties followed suit after Thursday's ruling. The San Juan County Clerk's Office gave its first marriage license to a same-sex couple Thursday afternoon, the Farmington Daily-Times reported.
Three hours later, Aztec women Luciana Velasquez and Deann Toadlena were married under Christmas lights at Orchard Park in downtown Farmington.
"We've been waiting for seven years. It's the best day of my life," said Toadlena, who plans to change her last name to Velasquez. "Everything I wanted was given to me today."
It's unclear how much traction Sharer's proposal, which bucks a growing national tide toward legalizing gay marriage, will have come January. New Mexico is the 17th state to recognize the unions.
The Democratic-controlled Legislature repeatedly has turned down proposals for a constitutional amendment to allow voters to decide whether to legalize marriage equality.
Gov. Susana Martinez, a Republican and who has opposed same-sex marriage, said she would have preferred to see voters, not the courts, decide the issue. But she urged New Mexicans to "respect one another in their discourse" and turn their focus to other issues facing the state.
"As we move forward, I am hopeful that we will not be divided, as we must come together to tackle very pressing issues, like reforming education and growing our economy, in the weeks and months ahead," Martinez said.
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