Showing posts with label New Mexico. Show all posts
Showing posts with label New Mexico. Show all posts

December 20, 2013

New Mexico’s High court Rules Gay Marriage Legal

File:Santa Fe, New Mexico Montage 1.png

SANTA FE, N.M. — New Mexico became the latest state to legalize gay marriage Thursday as its highest court declared it is unconstitutional to deny marriage licenses to gay and lesbian couples.
Justice Edward L. Chavez said in a ruling that none of New Mexico's marriage statutes specifically prohibits same-gender marriages, but the state's laws as a whole have prevented gay and lesbian couples from marrying. The justices said same-sex couples are a discrete group that has been subjected to a history of discrimination and violence.

"Accordingly, New Mexico may neither constitutionally deny same-gender couples the right to marry nor deprive them of the rights, protections and responsibilities of marriage laws, unless the proponents of the legislation — the opponents of same-gender marriage — prove that the discrimination caused by the legislation is 'substantially related to an important government interest,'" Chavez wrote.
New Mexico joins 16 other states and the District of Columbia in allowing gay marriage either through legislation, court rulings or voter referendums.
Eight of the state's 33 counties started issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples in August when a county clerk in southern New Mexico independently decided to allow the unions.
County officials had asked the high court to clarify the law and establish a uniform state policy on gay marriage.
State statutes don't explicitly prohibit or authorize gay marriage. However, county clerks historically have denied marriage licenses to same-sex couples because the law includes a marriage license application with sections for male and female applicants.
The ruling was a victory for gay rights activists who had been unable to win a legislative resolution of the issue.
"This truly is a historic and joyful day for New Mexico," ACLU-New Mexico Legal Director Laura Schauer Ives said. "The more than 1,000 same-sex couples who have already married in New Mexico can now rest certain knowing their marriages will be recognized and respected by our state."
The American Civil Liberties Union and the National Center for Lesbian Rights represented same-sex couples in the Supreme Court case. They contended gay marriage must be allowed because of constitutional guarantees of equal protection under the law and a state constitutional prohibition against discrimination based on sexual orientation.
Attorney General Gary King said he had yet to analyze the ruling but was pleased with the high court's decision.
Asked whether same-sex couples could feel confident in getting a marriage license in New Mexico, King said yes.
"Based on what I understand about the opinion, now in every county in New Mexico clerks will be required to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples," he said. "And certainly it's been our position that if you're validly married in New Mexico under those provisions, that your marriage has the same legal effect as marriage between a heterosexual couple."
King acknowledged that the laws in New Mexico that led to the debate are very complex and that the Legislature likely will want to weigh in during the next legislative session.
The Democratic-controlled Legislature repeatedly has turned down proposals for domestic partnerships for same-sex couples and a constitutional amendment that would have allowed voters to decide whether to legalize gay marriage. Measures to ban same-sex marriage also have failed.
Sen. William Sharer, a Farmington Republican who opposes gay marriage, has said a constitutional amendment will be needed to resolve the issue regardless of the outcome of the court case.
The Flora Vista-based Voices for Family Values said its members already gathering signatures for petitions to present to state lawmaker during the upcoming session in January.
"Today, the New Mexico Supreme Court released their ruling which redefines marriage to mean something it was never meant to be," the group said in a statement. “Though this battle did not end in our favor, the war is far from over." 

October 24, 2013

A Lonesome County Clerk in New Mexico Ignited the Match for Gay Marriage

Dona Ana County Clerk Lynn Ellins talks with Thom Hinks and Richard Sunman (far right) after they obtained a marriage license at the Dona Ana County Clerk's Office in Las Cruces, N.M. In August, Ellins' office began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
Dona Ana County Clerk Lynn Ellins talks with Thom Hinks and Richard Sunman (far right) after they obtained a marriage license at the Dona Ana County Clerk's Office in Las Cruces, N.M. In August, Ellins' office began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
Juan Carlos Llorca/AP
New Mexico law doesn't explicitly ban or approve same-sex marriage. There were a spate of lawsuits seeking to clarify the issue, but they were tied up in the courts. Then in August, the clerk of Dona Ana County, Lynn Ellins, a long-time supporter of same-sex marriage, consulted his staff.
"And we all agreed that it was about time to bring this thing to a head, and if we did nothing, the cases would languish in the district court if we did not move to issue these licenses and try and put the ball in play," Ellins says.
Soon state judges ordered four other county clerks to follow Ellins' lead and together they have issued more than 900 marriage licenses. But not every county clerk was prepared to do the same in their communities. Instead, all 33 county clerks in New Mexico agreed to petition the state Supreme Court for a final say on the matter. The main opposition comes from a group of Republican lawmakers led by state Sen. William Sharer of Farmington.
"So when Lynn Ellins decided that he was the only one in New Mexico that could properly read the law and declared that same-sex marriage was legal, I stepped in and said, 'No, you're wrong. We must stop this,' Sharer says, adding that Ellins "far exceeded his authority."
But the reaction from other quarters has been relatively mild. New Mexico's three Catholic bishops said the action of the county clerks should be resolved by the Legislature. And Republican Gov. Susana Martinez has said the issue should be determined by the voters.
But supporters of same-sex marriage say local polls indicate that New Mexicans are prepared to accept a state Supreme Court ruling confirming marriage equality. They are also encouraged by what's happened in New Jersey, says Elizabeth Gill of the ACLU.
"It's yet another court that has analyzed whether there's any real reason to discriminate against same-sex couples in marriage and concluded that there is not," she says.
Gill and others say their side has momentum.
  • In Oregon last week, state authorities said they would recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states. Advocates are trying to get a freedom-to-marry initiative on Oregon's ballot in November 2014.
  • In Illinois, a same-sex marriage bill awaits action by the lower House.
  • In Pennsylvania, a federal lawsuit challenging that state's same-sex marriage ban is in the courts, and there's a marriage equality bill before the Legislature.
  • In Hawaii, a special legislative session has been called for later this month to consider a marriage bill.
  • And in Tennessee, there's a lawsuit challenging both state law and a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage.
Sara Warbelow, a spokeswoman for the D.C.-based Human Rights Campaign, says in some states it appears marriage equality is inevitable.
"There's been a fair amount of polling, and rather consistently, 80 percent of the American public says within the next 10 years, marriage equality will be the law of the land," Warbelow says.
Back in New Mexico, the Supreme Court justices have taken the unusual step of expanding oral arguments Wednesday from 20 minutes to one hour for each side. They have not indicated when they will issue their decision. In the meantime the court is allowing marriages to continue.

September 12, 2013

Gay Marriage in New Mexico Received Like It’s Always Been There

State seal of New Mexico


 Ellins stunned New Mexico last month when the county clerk decided to begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. But even he was shocked by the lack of public outrage or protest to his decision, which set off a chain reaction that has for all practical purposes made gay marriage legal in the state.
The only crowds that gathered outside his Dona Ana County office were gay couples wanting to marry. The state's top politicians stayed neutral. New Mexico's three Catholic bishops said it was a matter for lawmakers. And an evangelical mega-church in the state's largest city was mum.
"I have gotten some fairly nasty religious-related telephone message," Ellins said. "But generally speaking, I am surprised by the relatively muted response from those who clearly disagree."
Experts and gay rights advocates say the relative lack of an uproar is a sign of how quickly public opinion has turned on the issue.
"If this had happened five years ago, there would have been a public outcry," said Andrew Cherlin, an expert on sociology of families and public policy at Johns Hopkins University. "If it had happened two to three years ago, there would have been public concern ... It's as if the dam broke quickly."
Gay marriage opponents, however, say residents of the mostly rural state are too busy taking care of their families to worry about organized protests. Instead, they are looking to their leaders to take action against the "lawbreakers," said state Sen. Sen. William Sharer, a Farmington Republican, who is leading a group of opponents suing to block Ellins.
"The reality is the other side built an army and trained an army before they broke the law and our side wasn't ready to fight," he said.
Perhaps one of the biggest turns has been in the Catholic Church, whose bishops historically have issued strong condemnations of same-sex marriage laws. About 25 percentage of the state's population is Catholic, according to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
New Mexico's three bishops issued a statement reiterating their belief that marriage is a unique institution between a man and a woman, saying Ellins' action was "a significant matter that affects society at large and as such is one that is best decided through the legislative branch of government."
Andrew Chesnut, a Catholic scholar at Virginia Commonwealth University, said he believes the bishops were following the lead of Pope Francis, who despite fervent opposition to same-sex marriage while archbishop in Argentina has now "been mostly mute on this subject."
The last time the state was embroiled in the gay marriage issue was in 2004, when then-Sandoval County Clerk Victoria Dunlap began to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. The state's attorney general at the time, a Democrat, ordered her to stop and she didn't run for re-election.
New Mexico is just one of two states without laws explicitly legalizing or banning same-sex marriage.
Because of that Ellins, a lawyer, said he began looking closely at state laws after several lawsuits were filed this year seeking to force county clerks in Santa Fe and the state's largest county, Bernalillo, to issue the licenses. Seeing that the legal process was doomed to drag on, he said, "I said, 'Enough is enough. It's time to move forward.'"
Unlike 2004, the Democratic attorney general made no attempt to intervene this time. When asked for comment, Republican Gov. Susana Martinez said it is a matter that should be decided by voters.
A week later, a state district judge, in Albuquerque ruled same-sex marriage was legal. Shortly thereafter, several other county clerks also began issuing licenses. At the request of county clerks, the Supreme Court has scheduled a hearing next month to decide if same-sex marriage is legal under the state's constitution.
One billboard opposing same-sex marriage was spotted recently at an evangelical church in Espanola. But the Catholic Church has said little beyond one statement after Ellins began issuing licenses.
Chestnut said the response of church officials in New Mexico isn't all that surprising, given that places around the world with sizeable Catholic populations — such as countries in Latin America — have led the way on gay marriage. Likewise, he said, Hispanics in the U.S. tend to be more approving of same-sex marriage than the overall population.
Allen Sanchez, spokesman for the New Mexico Conference of Catholic Bishops, denied a shift or softening in the church's position. And he pointed to the pope's recent call for compassion and tolerance for gays.
The difference to the response and lack of public action in New Mexico, he said, "is the difference between legislative and legal strategy. Had this been up for a legislative vote, you would have seen a much different process.”

September 9, 2013

Gay Couple in Chihuahua Granted Right to Marry

 Civil registry, which initially refused to perform the ceremony, did not appeal
A gay couple in the Mexican province of Chihuahua has been granted the unique right to marry by a state judge, El Puebloreports. Although marriage is restricted to a man and a woman in Chihuahua, judge José Juan Múzquiz Gómez gave the couple a special injunction, forcing the state government to perform the marriage.
The Chihuahua Civil Registry, which initially refused to perform the ceremony, was given until Sept 3 to appeal the ruling. The Registry did not appeal, and Gómez ordered the marriage to be recognized on Sept 4.
Tony and Tomas will be the first gay couple to marry in Chihuahua. The special order allowing them to marry, called a “recurso de amparo,” does not change state law, but makes a special exception to protect individual rights.


August 22, 2013

County Clerk in N.M. Starts Issuing Same Sex Marriage Licenses Despite Anti Marriage Law

 Gay couples rushed to a courthouse in Las Cruces on Wednesday after the county clerk decided to issue same-sex marriage licenses in a surprise move that came as several legal challenges on the practice make their way through the courts. "I was in a coffee shop grading dissertations when my partner sent me an email saying, 'you want to get married?'" said Char Ullman, 51. "I went home to brush my teeth and headed to the courthouse."
Dona Ana County Clerk Lynn Ellins said his office had provided 35 licenses to same-sex couples compared to four or five given on an average day to heterosexual couples.
"It's a happy office today. Lots of happy people," he said. "One of the first couples that came in today said they had been waiting 31 years. Another couple says they've been waiting 43 years. It's time to stop waiting."
Jeff Williams, a public information officer in the county's government and a reverend with Universal Life Church, said he was marrying same-sex couples all day long while wearing his rainbow-colored tie.
Outside the courthouse, television reporters were busy interviewing the people getting married and there was no sign of any protesters.
Ellins said he had carefully read state laws and concluded the "state's marriage statutes are gender neutral and do not expressly prohibit Dona Ana County from issuing marriage licenses to same-gender couples."
Later in the day, New Mexico Attorney General Gary King said he had no plans to challenge the move by Ellins or another other county clerks who might allow the practice.
Ellins said he had been considering issuing the licenses since June, when King released a position paper saying state laws don't allow same-sex marriage. King had asked county clerks to hold off on issuing licenses, even though he believes the laws are unconstitutional.
Ellins, however, said "any further denial of marriage licenses to these couples violates the United States and New Mexico Constitution and the New Mexico Human Rights Act."
"I see no reason to make committed couples in Dona Ana County wait another minute to marry," he added in his statement.
King said Wednesday that "we feel like our position that the law is unconstitutional presents a barrier to us from bringing any action."
Still, he warned that marriage licenses issued by county clerks could become invalid if the state Supreme Court later rules that same-sex marriage is not allowed.
County and city officials around the country have taken it upon themselves in recent years to issue same-sex licenses, with one of the first and most highly publicized cases in San Francisco in 2004.
The city issued the licenses for about a month before being ordered by courts to stop. The marriages were eventually invalidated. But gay marriage is now legal in that state.
Dona Ana County became the first county in New Mexico to actively issue same-sex licenses since a Sandoval County clerk issued 64 licenses to same-sex couples in 2004. Then-Attorney General Patricia Madrid soon declared the licenses were invalid and a court later ordered the clerk to stop.
Ullman and her longtime partner, Carrie Hamblen, 45, were among the same sex couples to receive marriage licenses on Wednesday in Las Cruces.
"People started clapping as soon as we walked in," Ullman said. "And more are coming from Albuquerque trying to make it here by this afternoon."
On Tuesday, a same-sex couple from Santa Fe asked the New Mexico Supreme Court to streamline the handling of lawsuits seeking to legalize gay marriage in the state.
State Rep. Brian Egolf, D-Santa Fe, a lawyer who represents the couple, said the goal is to get a quick lower court decision and clear the way for an expedited ruling by the state's highest court.
The justices were being asked to consolidate all cases involving the issue and assign a district court judge in Santa Fe, who would issue a ruling that would go directly to the state Supreme Court for review.
Santa Fe County Clerk Geraldine Salazar said she does not plan on issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples because of pending lawsuits.
"I believe it's in the right place — the courts," Salazar said.
Couples in Bernalillo County — the state's largest county and the location of Albuquerque — also are part of a lawsuit seeking to have same-sex marriage recognized in that county.
Bernalillo County Clerk Maggie Toulouse Oliver said she was conferring with attorneys but not planning to follow Dona Ana County.
Meanwhile, the American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico filed an emergency request on Wednesday with the state's Second Judicial District Court to allow two women in Pojoaque, Jen Roper and Angelique Neuman, to legally marry immediately in Santa Fe County. The group said Jen Roper is not expected to live long.
 Writers Barry Massey in Santa Fe and Juan Carlos Llorca in Las Cruces 

Featured Posts

Staten Island and The US Looses One of Its Fighters to COVID-19 {Jim Smith}

                             Jim Smith helped organize Staten Island's first pride parade in 2005. He served as its...