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Same-sex marriage trailblazer Jennifer Neuman-Roper succumbs to cancer

Archbishop Richard Gundrey, left, with the Catholic Apostolic Church of Antioch at Santa Fe, performed the marriage ceremony for Angelique Neuman and Jen Roper at the chapel at Buffalo Thunder in Pojoaque on Friday October 11, 2013. Richard Rieckenberg, right, gave away Roper. Jennifer Neuman-Roper passed away Friday, November 8, 2013, after a battle with cancer She was 44. (Eddie Moore/Journal)
Archbishop Richard Gundrey, left, with the Catholic Apostolic Church of Antioch at Santa Fe, performed the marriage ceremony for Angelique Neuman and Jen Roper at the chapel at Buffalo Thunder in Pojoaque on Friday October 11, 2013. Richard Rieckenberg, right, gave away Roper. Jennifer Neuman-Roper passed away Friday, November 8, 2013, after a battle with cancer She was 44. (Eddie Moore/Journal)
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Jennifer Neuman-Roper, one of the plaintiffs in a landmark New Mexico same-sex marriage case, passed away Friday after a battle with cancer that prompted her and her longtime partner to seek the court’s permission for them to marry. She was 44.

Jen and Angelique Neuman-Roper of Nambe were married in August during an impromptu ceremony in the lobby of the Christus St. Vincent Cancer Center in Santa Fe, the same day a judge granted their request and ordered the Santa Fe County clerk to begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. They made their urgent request because Jen Neuman-Roper had Stage 4 glioblastoma, an aggressive form of brain cancer.

They married again in October, this time in a more formal ceremony in Pojoaque attended by many family and friends.

Upon her passing, Jen Neuman-Roper was the first person to be issued a New Mexico certificate of death that acknowledged a surviving same-sex spouse, according to a news release issued today by the American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico.

The Santa Fe court’s decision followed on the heels of a Doña Ana county clerk’s decision to begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Currently, eight New Mexico counties — including Santa Fe, Bernalillo and Doña Ana — are issuing marriage licenses to same sex couples.

The Neuman-Ropers are one of six couples who are plaintiffs in the case, called Griego v. Oliver, which is on appeal to the state Supreme Court. The court is expected to issue a ruling soon.

Neuman-Roper is survived by her wife, Angelique, and sons Jayms, David, and Damion.

“We are deeply saddened by the news of Jen Neuman-Roper’s passing,” said ACLU-NM Executive Director Peter Simonson. “She was a beloved member of her community, a loving mother and wife, and a trail blazer for marriage equality in New Mexico. Her participation in the New Mexico freedom to marry case helped open the door for thousands of same-sex couples to celebrate their love and commitment in marriage here in our state. She will be missed.”

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Jen Roper Memorial Fund at the Los Alamos National Bank for scholarships to be awarded to youth attending the Pueblo of Pojoaque Boys and Girls Club. A memorial service will be held at 4 p.m. Nov. 18 at Saint Stephen’s Episcopal Church in Espanola.

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