2nd N.M. county issuing same-sex marriage licenses

The county clerk in the New Mexico state capital and the heart of this state’s gay rights movement began issuing marriage licenses to gay and lesbian couples Friday, a court-ordered move that came just two days after a county clerk on the other end of the state decided on his own to recognize same-sex marriage.

News of the court order sent a steady stream of couples to the Santa Fe County administrative building in downtown Santa Fe. County Clerk Geraldine Salazar kept her office open until 7:30 p.m. to give more people the opportunity to get married before the weekend.

Salazar also sent a staffer to the chemotherapy suite at Christus St. Vincent Regional Medical Center, so Jen Roper of Pojoaque, who is dying of brain cancer, could marry Angelique Neuman.

The first couple to get a license in the state’s third-largest county was Santa Fe County Commissioner Liz Stefanics and Linda Siegle, a lobbyist for Equality New Mexico, a gay rights group. Stefanics is a former Democratic state senator.

The couple walked into County Clerk Geraldine Salazar’s office shortly after 1:30 p.m. and asked if officials there were still denying licenses to same-sex couples.

“Not today,” Salazar said.

Second in line were the two men who filed the lawsuit that resulted in the court order directing the clerk to issue the licenses — Alexander Hanna and Yon Hudson.

“It’s exhilarating and also humbling,” Hudson said.

By the end of the day, 49 licenses had been issued, including one to Carolyn Dechaine and Kristina McKeown of Santa Fe, who heard the news on Facebook. Group weddings also were being offered.

The order late Thursday from District Judge Sarah Singleton represents the first time a New Mexico judge has ruled that gay and lesbian couples can be married, said state Rep. Brian Egolf, a lawyer representing Hanna and Hudson in the lawsuit.

In southern New Mexico, more than 90 same-sex couples have received marriage licenses since Wednesday, when the Dona Ana County clerk in Las Cruces decided to start granting them.

New Mexico law doesn’t explicitly prohibit or authorize same-sex couples to be married. The attorney general’s office has interpreted the law to prohibit gay marriage, but Attorney General Gary King also contends the law violates constitutional guarantees of equal protection under the law.

More than a dozen other states do allow same-sex marriage.