The impact of this week’s court ruling on same sex marriage in Bernalillo County is likely to be felt in Sandoval County, which gained national attention over the issue nearly 10 years ago.
Sandoval County Clerk Eileen Garbagni said she is willing to give out wedding licenses, if that’s how the local courts rule.
“I don’t have any issue giving licenses,” she said. “If that’s what the judge rules for me to do, that’s what I’ll do.”
In 2004, Sandoval County Clerk Victoria Dunlap, a Republican, began issuing same-sex marriage licenses. The same day, after 64 marriage licenses were approved, the practice was halted after then-Attorney General Patricia Madrid, a Democrat, stepped in with legal action and warned that the licenses were invalid under New Mexico law.
Now that a Bernalillo County-based judge has ruled in favor of same-sex marriage, Garbagni said a ruling of some sort is on its way to Sandoval County as well.
“… It’s coming,” she said.
Thirteenth Judicial District Chief Judge Louis McDonald would not comment on the issue, because he believes it is a matter that he will have to rule on in the future. A spokesman for the court said there are no pending cases at this point, however.
On Monday, Second Judicial District Judge Alan Mallot ruled that New Mexico laws that seem to prohibit same-sex marriage are unconstitutional and cannot be enforced. The Bernalillo County-based judge ordered Bernalillo County Clerk Maggie Toulouse Oliver and Santa Fe County Clerk Geraldine Salazar to immediately begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
The first in the recent wave of same-sex marriage licenses was started in Doña Ana County, which started issuing them Aug. 22.
At that time, New Mexico Attorney General Gary King said he won’t take any legal action to halt the practice.
Some 42 marriage licenses were issued that day to same-sex couples. Doña Ana County Clerk Lynn Ellins said he began issuing same-sex marriage licenses because he believes state laws that have prohibited the practice are unconstitutional.
Garbagni, who was elected to the position in 2012, noted that Madrid’s opinion in 2004 held that the licenses Dunlap issued were invalid.
“The last page states that the licenses that were sold at that time … are invalid,” she said.
Garbagni has said she has no personal opinion on the validity of the licenses. She has gotten a few angry phone calls, though, she said. That included a call from an irate man who Garbagni said was among the same-sex couples given licenses in 2004.
“He wanted to know if his license was valid,” she said. “… I told him to seek legal advice.”