SANTA FE, N.M. — Santa Fe County Clerk Geraldine Salazar has decided to keep her office open late today as same-sex couples continue to show up for marriage licenses.
At least 35 licenses have been issued so far to gay and lesbian couples since Salazar agreed to follow a judge’s order and start providing the licenses at 2 p.m.
Many people were married right away at the county building, including nine couples at one time by Rev. Talitha Arnold of the United Church of Santa Fe.
Also, clerk’s office employees delivered a license to Jen Roper and Angelique Neuman of Pojoaque at the Christus St. Vincent cancer center and they were married by a judge soon after. Roper has brain cancer and has been told she has only a short time to live. They were refused a marriage license recently and went to court this week seeking a court order that would allow them to marry before the cancer takes Roper, 44.
The couple has been together 21 years and have three adopted children.
Santa Fe County Commissioner Liz Stefanics, a former state senator, and her longtime partner, Linda Siegle, a lobbyist and member of the Santa Fe Community College board, were the first same-sex couple issued a marriage license today by County Clerk Geraldine Salazar.
They are to be married shortly in the County Commission chambers.
Yon Hudson and Alex Hanna, whose court petition provoked today’s court order that Salazar issue marriage licenses to gay couples, were second to get a license from Salazar.
After a court order yesterday, Santa Fe County Clerk Geraldine Salazar just announced that she will begin issuing licenses to same-sex couples at 2 p.m. today.
“I am a fervent supporter of same-sex marriage in New Mexico and have always believed that the restrictive and antiquated statutes in our state must fall to principles of equal protection embodied in our Constitution,” she said in a statement.
“I have been frustrated recently wanting to issue licenses but being confronted with long-standing statutes that do not permit it.”
Judge Sarah Singleton issued an order late Thursday telling the clerk to begin issuing the licenses or to come to court to explain why she won’t. That deadline was set for Sept. 26. The judge herself issued a statement clarifying that her order, or writ, does not represent “a decision on the merits” and merely provides a way for the clerk’s office to respond to the gay couple from Santa Fe that went to court seeking an order that Salazar has to provide them with a marriage license.
John Day, a lawyer handling the case that prompted the order, called it “monumental.” He said his firm’s clients, Alex Hanna and Yon Hudson, will go to the county clerk this afternoon to get a marriage license.
“The dominoes are falling,” he said of the court’s action.
Salazar added in her statement, “Now that Judge Singleton has ordered me to issue a license to Messrs. Hanna and Hudson on constitutional grounds, I intend to do so and to issue a license to any same-sex couple who desires one and are otherwise qualified. By complying with the judge’s order, we will be issuing licenses legally and will not continue to use limited county resources on further litigation.”
Judge Singleton issued this statement about her order through a staff member:
“What was issued yesterday was an alternative writ of mandamus. No decision has been made. That alternative writ says that the clerk is to do what the petitioner (Day’s clients, the two men who have sought a marriage license and been turned down) asks or show cause at a specific date why you should not do that.
“An alternative writ is merely a way of giving the respondent (in this case the county clerk) a specific time to come in and answer the petition. It does not represent a decision on the merits.”
Around 90 same-sex couples have received marriage licenses in southern New Mexico this week since the Dona Ana County clerk decided on his own to grant them.