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Taos to be 6th county to issue same-sex marriage licenses

5:28 p.m.

A state district court judge in Taos has signed an alternative writ of mandamus directing the Taos County clerk to begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

The order late Tuesday afternoon came from Judge Jeff F. McElroy, who signed the writ on behalf of Judge Sarah C. Backus, the judge assigned to the case.

The alternative writ requires Taos County Clerk Anna Martinez to begin issuing licenses, or explain why she won’t during a hearing scheduled for Sept. 5.

KOB-TV reported that Martinez would not contest the order and begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples on Wednesday.

5:15 p.m.

TAOS, N.M. (AP) — The Taos County clerk says she will start issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples on Wednesday, making it the sixth county in New Mexico to do so.

Clerk Anna Martinez said she would follow a district court judge’s order issued Tuesday directing her office to grant licenses to gay and lesbian couples.

She said her office will make license applications available starting at 8 a.m.

Dona Ana, Santa Fe and Bernalillo counties are issuing licenses to same-sex couples and county clerks in San Miguel and Valencia counties said Tuesday their offices would do the same.

Taos County in northern New Mexico has a population of nearly 33,000.

12:40 p.m.

Twelve same-sex couples married at noon in a mass ceremony at Civic Plaza today.

“Equality feels wonderful,” said Tracie Bartlett, 49, after she married her partner of 25 years, Ellen Grigsby, 55, of Albuquerque. “This has been a long time in coming. This gives us the same protections that other married couples have.”

A crowd of about 300 people erupted in cheers after Bernalillo County Metropolitan Court Judge Jason Greenlee told the couples: “With the power finally vested in me by the State of New Mexico, I now pronounce you married.”

12:07 a.m.

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Two more New Mexico counties say they’ll begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

The clerks in San Miguel and Valencia counties say they’ve ordered gender-neutral forms so they can follow the state’s three population centers in recognizing gay and lesbian marriages.

The decisions come a day after a state district judge in Albuquerque declared gay marriage legal, and ordered the Bernalillo County clerk to join Santa Fe and Dona Ana counties in issuing the licenses.

More than 100 people were lined up for the licenses in Albuquerque Tuesday morning, and a mass wedding was planned at noon at Civic Plaza.

Sandoval County Clerk Eileen Garbagni said she is not prepared to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples until she receives a judge’s order to do so.

Garbagni said she’s received dozens of calls and emails since last week when the Dona Ana county clerk began issuing licenses to same-sex couples.

“It’s been non-stop,” Garbagni said.

She said consulted with the county attorney and on his advice she has decided not to issue licenses until she gets a ruling from a judge.

“I’m just going to wait until they call me and tell me otherwise,” Garbagni said.

Santa Fe County Clerk also began issuing same-sex licenses last week after a court ruling. Bernalillo County Clerk Maggie Toulouse Oliver started issuing license this morning after receiving an order from a District Court Judge Monday afternoon.

County clerks in San Miguel and Valencia counties have said today that they too are prepared to issue same-sex licenses.

11:50 a.m.

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — More than 100 people were lined up in Albuquerque Tuesday morning as the clerk in New Mexico’s most populous county began issuing marriages licenses to gay and lesbian couples.

The clerk opened her office to the crowd at 8 a.m., and a mass wedding was planned at noon in Albuquerque’s Civic Plaza.

Patricia Catlett, a 61-year-old graphic designer from Albuquerque, and her partner of 25 years, Karen Schmiege, a 69-year-old retired librarian, were the first to get their license in Bernalillo County.

“I am so excited I can’t stand it,” Schmiege said as they were signing their papers.

As they walked out of the booth where they received their license, the crowd applauded and yelled in celebration. The couple raised their hand, and the crowd responded by putting their fists in the air.

“I want her to take me to Costa Rica,” said Schmiege. “She promised.”

The Bernalillo County Clerk joined clerks from the state’s other two population centers in recognizing same-sex unions after a judge Monday declared gay marriage legal.

State District Judge Alan Malott on Monday ruled New Mexico’s constitution prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.

The decision comes on the heels of an order last week from a judge in Santa Fe that directed the county clerk there to begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Two days earlier, the clerk in the southern New Mexico county of Dona Ana decided to recognize same-sex couples.

But Malott’s ruling was seen as more sweeping than the temporary Santa Fe order because he directly declared that gay marriage was legal.

Laura Schauer Ives, a lawyer for the American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico, called it “monumental” and said the group didn’t expect such a broad decision by Malott. The judge had been asked only to order that the state recognize, on her death certificate, a dying woman’s marriage Friday in Santa Fe to her longtime partner.

But after a short hearing in which neither the counties nor the state objected to the request, Malott also ruled on the broader lawsuit by that couple and five others seeking marriage licenses.

However, it’s uncertain whether clerks in the state’s 30 other counties, who were not defendants in the lawsuit, will use the judge’s ruling as a signal that they can issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Assistant Attorney General Scott Fuqua said the decision wasn’t binding on clerks outside Bernalillo and Santa Fe counties.

Malott’s order came during a hearing seeking an order for the state to recognize the marriage of Jen Roper, who has cancer, to Angelique Neuman.

The couple wed at a Santa Fe hospital after a state district judge in a separate case ordered the Santa Fe County clerk to issue same-sex licenses.

The couple last week joined the lawsuit brought by the ACLU on behalf of five other lesbian couples.

One of those couples, Tanya Struble and Therese Councilor of Jemez Springs, said they plan to get their marriage license first thing Tuesday. But they were unsure whether they would be married immediately or wait for a ceremony that can be attended by family and friends.

Christine Butler of Albuquerque, who opposes gay marriage and attended the hearing, said the judge’s ruling violates her rights.

“I don’t want to bring my children or go to places and see same-sex couples showing a lot of affection. … That’s against God’s law,” Butler said.

A group of Republican legislators is planning to file a lawsuit to stop clerks from issuing licenses to same-sex couples.

One of those lawmakers, Sen. William Sharer of Farmington, said it is up to the state’s Legislature, with the consent of the governor, to make laws — not its county clerks or district judges.

“It is inexplicable how a district court just today discovered a new definition of marriage in our laws, when our marriage law has not been changed in over a century,” Sharer said.