March 19, 2013 at 3:40 pm EST | by Chris Johnson
Santa Fe officials say marriage equality legal in N.M.
Santa Fe, New Mexico, gay news, Washington Blade

City officials in Santa Fe are reportedly saying same-sex marriage is already legal in New Mexico (Photo by Karol M. via Wikimedia Commons)

City officials in Sante Fe are asserting that same-sex marriage is already legal in New Mexico and are encouraging county clerks in the state to offer marriage licenses to gay couples.

Santa Fe Mayor David Coss, Councilor Patti Bushee and City Attorney Geno Zamora have unveiled two documents laying out their case and proposing action on behalf on same-sex couples seeking to marry: a legal document and a proposed resolution for the city council.

“Santa Fe is a city of respect, acceptance, and diversity that embraces all of our residents,” said Mayor David Coss in a statement. “I sponsored this resolution because all loving, committed couples should have the right to marry regardless of their sexual orientation.”

The legal document, dated March 19, is from the city attorney explaining the reasoning that same-sex marriage is legal in New Mexico. As noted in the memo, no law prohibits explicitly same-sex marriage in New Mexico and the state already recognizes such unions from other jurisdictions.

“New Mexico law does not define marriage as between a man and a woman,” the document concludes. “Nor does New Mexico law prohibit same-sex marriage. New Mexico already recognizes same-sex marriage performed in other states and our Constitution requires equal treatment on the basis of sex. Same-sex marriage is legal in New Mexico.”

The proposed resolution from Coss and Bushee for the city council also asserts same-sex marriage is legal in New Mexico and encourages clerks throughout the state to offer marriage licenses to same-sex couples. The resolution is set for introduction before the city council on March 27 — the same day that the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments in the case against the Defense of Marriage Act.

“Be it further resolved by the governing body of Santa Fe that we strongly encourage New Mexico’s County Clerks to follow state law and issue marriage licenses to loving, committed couples who have the right to marry  the person that they love, including those of the same gender,” the resolution concludes.

In a statement, Pat Davis, executive director of ProgressNow New Mexico, praised the move from city officials.

“It’s about time someone made a legal argument for equality in New Mexico,” Davis said. “Just this month, a Republican Senator publicly came out for his son’s right to marry, Hillary Clinton endorsed full equality and the Supreme Court is prepared to hear landmark arguments on DOMA and marriage.  It’s time New Mexico join the ranks of the progressive states and stand up for loving, committed couples who want nothing more than to be treated the same as they already treat their neighbors.”

But according to the Santa Fe New Mexican, Santa Fe County Clerk Geraldine Salazar said she won’t issue same-sex marriage licenses until state law changes.

“I would love to be able to issue marriage licenses … but under the current law, I feel I’m not free and clear to do so,”  Salazar was quoted as saying. “The Legislature creates the laws and the judges interpret the laws and I as a county clerk do not create or interpret laws. And I feel that my oath of office does not allow to me act counter to the laws of New Mexico.”

The announcement comes just one week before the U.S. Supreme Court is slated to hear arguments in legal cases challenging California’s Proposition 8 and the Defense of Marriage Act. Decisions in those cases could have impact on same-sex marriage bans nationwide. It’s unclear what impact this move from city officials will have on those cases.

Chris Johnson is Chief Political & White House Reporter for the Washington Blade. Johnson attends the daily White House press briefings and is a member of the White House Correspondents' Association. Follow Chris

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