March 19, 2013 | 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

14 Comments
  • Sounds like Multnomah County (Portland, Oregon in 2004)… what followed next was the Oregon Supreme Court taking away my marriage. (I've been with my partner Larry for 27 years).

    I hope Santa Fe officials can learn from the mistake made by officials here, the push back was strong and ended up with a constitutional amendment of discrimination. Only now 10 years later do we have an opportunity to overturn it.

    We need marriage equality supported by not just our political officials (Thank you) but our neighbors, friends, family and a VOTE. It's happening, and will happen here in Oregon in 2014. Sante Fe is making a mistake I hope they reach-out to HRC and Basic Rights Oregon for some advice.

  • what an entangled webb…..thanks for the advice to the Santa Fe officials…they only want to do good…..God speed to the upholders of "LOVE"!

  • what an entangled webb…..thanks for the advice to the Santa Fe officials…they only want to do good…..God speed to the upholders of "LOVE"!

  • In my opinion, it would be irresponsible for the state to take away the right to marry and that would be the true mistake. Marriage equality is bound to happen some day, maybe it's the day for New Mexico where the citizens who, on ballot, may be able to vote for equality with 45%/43% approval/disapproval percentages. Its neighbor to the north, Colorado, is already taking steps towards equality and even my state of Texas has the majority favoring recognition of at least relationships.

    It's sad that what happened in Oregon did, however, if your marriage was once recognized by a state, I'm sure that moving to another one will be a good alternative until it's legalized at your home state since as of now, in New Mexico, couples don't have the same rights if they're of the same-sex as opposite-sex couples. However, I don't know if New Mexico would be that cruel if their government chooses to withhold marriages since 67% of their residents also believe in the recognition of relationships according to the most recent findings. So I just have to hope for the right think to happen for them and at least extend the rights of marriage to same-sex couples who choose to be recognized as such.

    On a final note, the Williams Institute, a think-tank affiliated with the UCLA School of Law, also found that New Mexico would greatly benefit from the legalization of same-sex marriages, so there's that pretty important point.

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  • Can Santa Fe County Clerk Geraldine Salazar state the law that prohibits her from issuing a license or is she just interpreting what she believes to be the case?

  • I went to my first gay marriage back in 1987 or was it 1988. One of the ladies in my office moved to Santa Fe from Austin. Found love and married her. I was simple but beautiful. At the time, I never questioned if the marriage was legit or not; all you felt was love and that was real.

  • I'm so proud of Mayor Coss here in Santa Fe. Our city is a very inclusive city and welcomes everyone and we are not so much inhibited by anti-gay or anti-multicultural 'bagger led GOP types. We are going to be covering this issue from a local perspective at http://bbsnews.net/gay-marriage-in-new-mexico/ here in Santa Fe. It's such a pleasure to be living in a place that is so enlightened and not so hateful.

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