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Gay cancer patient weds her partner

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Wedding held in a rush at St. Vincent

SANTA FE – “Death do us part” may not be too far away for Jen Roper and Angelique Neuman of Pojoaque, but they at least had a chance to say their wedding vows Friday.

The two women were married in a brief ceremony in the lobby of Christus St. Vincent Regional Cancer Center.

“I didn’t wake up this morning thinking that we’d be married by the end of the day,” said Neuman, whose partner for the past 21 years is undergoing treatment at the cancer center.

But a district judge on Thursday ordered Santa Fe County Clerk Geraldine Salazar to begin issuing marriage licenses, and special accommodations were made to deliver one to Roper and Neuman at the cancer center.

“Their situation is unique, so I sent two staff members and a judge over there,” Salazar said.

Roper, 44, was diagnosed with Stage 4 glioblastoma, an aggressive form of brain cancer, in December. At the time, she was given 18 months to live.

With time running out, the couple visited the Clerk’s Office last week with the hope they’d be issued a marriage license, but their request was denied.

On Wednesday, the couple and lawyers with the ACLU and the National Center for Lesbian Rights filed a motion for a temporary restraining order asking that they be allowed to marry before it was too late.

Thursday’s court order to Salazar solved the problem of getting a license. There was some disappointment that they didn’t have time to invite friends and family to the wedding, especially their three adopted sons. But that was OK.

“Really, we just want to be married,” Neuman said.

With staff members from the cancer center looking on, the deed was done during a makeshift ceremony with Probate Judge Mark Basham presiding.

Carolyn Phillips, an oncology nurse practitioner who has been one of the providers for Roper during her treatment, served as maid of honor. Karl Krenek, a good friend and co-worker of Neuman’s at Los Alamos National Laboratory, was the best man.

Having left their house before they got the news about the order to issue marriage licenses, they had to use two rings Neuman happened to be wearing.

“Hers doesn’t really fit. I’m not sure we can get it off her,” Neuman said.

Afterward, while Roper was hooked up to an IV receiving chemotherapy, the cancer center staff presented the couple with a bottle of sparkling apple-cranberry juice, in lieu of champagne, and a wedding cake.

“We should put a sign on the back of your (wheel)chair that says ‘Just Married,’ ” Neuman quipped.

Roper said she hopes that other same-sex couples will now be able to experience the same joy she felt Friday.

“I feel very privileged and hope that it extends to everyone in the state,” she said. “We want other people in the state to be able to make the same choice.”

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